Film Review: “Not Okay”


Screengrab from: "Not Okay"

“Not Okay” was released on July 29, 2022 on Hulu. The film portrays satire on internet culture which demonstrates the measures in which people will go to get attention. Dylan O’Brian (left) and Zoey Deutch (right) star in this comedy drama.

Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer

Sure, it’s nice when films provide content warnings for flashing lights or themes of trauma, but Quinn Shephard’s film “Not Okay” opens with a warning of an “Unlikable Female Protagonist.”

“Not Okay” is a satire on internet culture which attempts to portray the extent people will take to get attention. In this case, Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is willing to do just about anything. In an attempt to garner the attention of a bleach blonde stoner boy in the likes of Pete Davison, played by Dylan O’Brian, Danni fakes an Instagramable trip to Paris. Everything is going according to plan until Danni is shocked to find a fatal bombing had struck the city she was pretending to be in. In an effort to keep up the act Danni claims to be traumatized by the incident and rides on the fame of recently befriended activist Rowan Aldren (Mia Isaac).

One of the opening scenes in the film Danni tells us how “missing 9/11” has made her depressed; she has FOMO about experiencing trauma. At this point you begin to understand that content warning mentioned earlier. The “trauma” she gains from surviving a bombing leads her to a support group where she soon discovers that there are people who have actually been impacted by events like these. Instead of learning from this, she capitalizes on her non-existent pain and sells it to the public in a convincing package, earning her a quick rise to internet fame.

It’s always difficult to make a movie about social media and influencers, because by the time the movie is released it’s already likely to be dated. Social media trends come and go so quickly that it is almost impossible to capture them on film. This can be done really well, a prime example being “Spree” (2020) or really poorly like “Mainstream” (2020). “Not Okay” lands somewhere in the middle. It does have a few moments that are easy to cringe at; for instance, there are some TikTok references that are no longer funny or the awkward “I’m shy” finger pose which is used embarrassingly often. However, it does capture the feeling of what it’s like to be online in today’s climate. The film manages to strike a balance between making timely refences without being overtly cringey.

The acting from Zoey Deutch shines through in this film. She captures the tone-deaf gen-z who desperately seeks clout with surprising realism. As an audience member, you can feel the tension of the web of lies she spins. (Screengrab from: “Not Okay”)

The acting from our unlikable female protagonist does, in fact, shine through in this film. She captures the tone-deaf gen-z who desperately seeks clout with surprising realism. As an audience member, you can feel the tension of the web of lies she spins, and I think this can be attributed to Deutch’s performance. 

The object of her affection on screen unfortunately does not do the same. While Dylan O’Brian is a fine actor, the Pete Davidson or Machine Gun Kelly-esque character has been done before and didn’t offer anything new. O’Brien did gain a rather obsessive fan base on TikTok from his exaggerated portrayal, so it wasn’t for nothing. But the real stand-out performance in this film would have to go to Mia Isaac. Leading a revolution against gun violence, she shines every moment she is on screen. Isaac had little to no involvement in the press circuit promoting the film, despite being a prominent character, which was disappointing to say the least.

“Not Okay” shows us the worst in someone seeking an ounce of fame, and in a painfully real way. With a plethora of references for the extremely online, and a dizzying spiral into the world of an unlikeable female protagonist, the film is a delight for those in need of a gripping modern-day nail-biter.

“Not Okay” is now streaming on Hulu.