'Not Okay' review: Social satire about influencer culture whiffs
Courtesy of Hulu/Searchlight
Quinn Shepherd’s bleak social satire about influence culture titled “Not Okay” opens with a hilarious warning: “This movie features a main protagonist who is unlikable.” Not everyday you see a label like that before what I presumed was a comedy, but crazier things have happened. However, the prophetic signal couldn’t prepare you for what ensues. Not only is the main character unlikable, she’s also unredeemable and annoying. Suppose this was the point of “Not Okay” – it doesn’t make the journey any less insufferable as it tries shining a light on the Tik-Tok generations obsession with creating the next major viral sensation. Some of it, as a concept, is mildly amusing, and producer/lead-actress Zoey Deutch pours her heart into the presentation, but “Not Okay” doesn’t offer a compelling story we haven’t already seen before.
Deutch plays the socially inept Danni Sanders, someone who yearns for attention in all the worst ways. She works as a photo editor for an online magazine in New York City and is desperately trying to leave her mark and work-up the food chain. Her pitches are met with the lukewarm reception they deserve (an article about having FOMO over 9/11) which only reinforces her awkward social awareness and inherent privilege that would probably get anybody else fired. Danni wants to be included and feeds on the displacement and success of others with her peers seeing through the facade. One scene has her stoop so low as to inadvertently get stoned with a fellow co-worker (played with smarmy bro-ness by Dylan O’Brien – who is hilarious) only for him to forget her name minutes later.
In a late-night drunken splurge, Danni decides the only way to impress her minimal online fanbase is to create a fake creative workshop intensive where she’ll “visit” Paris for work. Her photo editing skills come in handy as she “documents” the trip through a series of poorly photoshopped images thrown on Instagram. Except it all blows up in her face when a real terrorist attack upends life in Paris, immediately making her a sympathetic victim where she’s forced to either come clean or indulge in the lie. Danni goes with the latter, taking in the outpouring of love and support from all social media channels with a smile and watching her stature rise instantaneously. Aside from getting promoted at work, she uses the clout to befriend a school-shooting survivor named Rowan (Mia Isaac) and shamelessly exploits her traumatic experience. It’s quite sickening, but then again, that’s the intention.
“Not Okay” thankfully stops short of giving Danni a redemption, though with meeting Rowan, who endured a real tragedy, she starts realizing her mistake just as the foundation of lies begins crumbling. Seeing Danni uncomfortably maneuver around the situation is predictable and you walk away from “Not Okay” feeling that, despite performing an unforgivable act, she’ll come out the other side. Her legacy might be stained, but no publicity is bad publicity.
NOT OKAY streams on Hulu Friday, July 29th