Director: Quinn Shephard
Writer: Quinn Shephard
Staring: Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Mia Isaac, Embeth Davidtz
Not Okay is a comedy written and directed by Quinn Shephard. It deals with someone lying online to get attention and that crumbling down as people find out the truth. The film starts with a warning about some of the content, as the story deals with a terrorist attack as well as school shootings, and also warns that the main character is unlikable. It’s strange to be warned about that, especially since it’s not 100% clear if it’s a joke or not. Either way Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) isn’t a likeable character, she’s selfish, attention seeking, and a liar and that’s just at the beginning where we find her trying to pitch an article to the website that she works for. Her idea is to justify why she feels sad, even though she doesn’t seem to have a reason to be.
Danni is an interesting character because she’s flawed in a realistic way. Her lies aren’t completely over the top, and it feels very authentic the way that she plays them up for sympathy. You get the impression that her mother has never been very caring or present in Danni’s life, and that she feels like an outcast. She has no friends at work and her closest companion is her pet Guinea pig. There are parts of Danni that are relatable, and you can understand why she lies, and how things snowball from there.
To impress someone a co-worker, Danni fakes being in Paris on a writer’s retreat. While supposedly in Paris, a co-ordinated terrorist attack happens, and people start to believe that Danni is a survivor. Before she knows it the lie has spun out of control and all of a sudden Danni is the centre of attention. She’s gone from being completely ignored to the centre of attention. She uses the lie to jumpstart her writing career and make a group of friends.
As the story progresses there are some predictable moments. The friends that Danni had coveted for such a long time aren’t really as amazing as she thinks they will be. A group of strangers she meets at a support group, that she joins while trying to find out how true survivors act to write an article, become better friends. She starts to see how her new-found fame and influencer status can be used for good and to change the world for a better place. Her secret is found out though which leads to everything being destroyed.
While the film deals with some dark topics, like depression, violence, and online bullying, it is still a comedy. It’s not the funniest film ever, but it has some good moments. The subject matter is hard hitting in places, but it has a nice balance between that and some more lighthearted moments. Most of the comedy comes from Danni raking in the attention, which is cringe-inducing at the same time and there are plenty of times you’ll want to look away, but can’t.
One of the better things about the film is the character Rowan (Mia Isaac), who did survive a school shooting, and ends up like a mentor for Danni as she starts to use her status to give a voice to others. Rowan should be the main character of the film, because she has more of a character arc, but Danni’s selfishness won’t let that happen. As someone else points out to Danni, she’s not willing to admit that she’s not the main character, and while Danni’s story drives the film, it’s Rowan’s story that gives it the emotional heart. The final scene, featuring Rowan reading out poetry, is perfectly poignant.
Not Okay is a pretty good look at the world of social media and influencers. It doesn’t say anything too bold, beyond the obvious like traumatic events last and you shouldn’t lie about them, but it’s well made. The central character is despicable and it’s refreshing that she doesn’t get a last minute redemption arc. The film starts with the ending, with everyone hating her, and with a small glimmer that anyone can grow and be a better person.
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