Not Okay is a lightning-quick, irreverent comedy with a breakout performance from Mia Isaac.
This review of Not Okay is spoiler-free.
If anything, what Quinn Shephard’s Not Okay lacks in original thought it replaces by making obviously needed points in a new presentation. We live in an era where social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are toxic wastelands. They all lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. (If the average use is three hours or more daily). This is puzzling since we also live in an era where youth are heavily invested in social justice movements. And that is the rub that Not Okay wants to expose — the cottage industry of narcissism, the type that uses empathy to prop themselves up and becomes monetized. Yes, this is obvious to most. Yet I would bet most social media users need a healthy dose of their hypocrisy.
Not Okay follows Danni Sanders (Buffaloed’s Zoey Deutch), a photo editor many would call just naive because of her looks. However, she is just an ignorant millennial who cannot empathize with others’ plights or disadvantages. For instance, she wrote about her regrets about not being around for the September 11 attacks. Yes, you read that correctly. Why does she feel this way? She was on a cruise with her parents during that time. Sadly for her, she never knew anyone who died during the tragedy. Naturally, her boss wants to fire her, and her coworkers do not respect her because she is unknowingly disrespectful to disadvantaged groups. For instance, she thinks minorities have it all because they have a sense of community, like LGBTQ+ bowling nights.
Danni also has a crush on a social media star, Colin (The Outfit’s Dylan O’Brien, hilarious here), and lies to him about going to a writer’s retreat in France. As she doubles down on lying to her boss and parents about going, a terrorist attack occurs in Paris. Unfortunately for her, she already faked and posted multiple social media posts that she was there. Then, when many contacted her, including Colin, to see if she was okay, she developed one of the worst histrionic personality disorders the world has ever seen. She pretends she was there. She even attends self-help groups of survivors of gun violence to gain insight. There, she befriends a school shooting survivor Rowan (Mia Isaac), who helps her find her “voice” and a fake one. This starts the “Not Okay” movement that takes social media by storm.
Shephard also wrote the script, and there is an odd mix of irreverent humor while morphing into heart-warming comedy as Deutch’s Danni begins to see and feel the errors of her ways. While the first two acts have a wonderfully deft touch that adequately shows the difference between Danni’s narcissism and Rowan’s altruistic motives, these insights are for the majority broad rather than anything razor sharp. Colin using Danni for his social media status is hardly groundbreaking. For instance, there is a scene where Colin ejaculates inside Danni when they hook up in the club bathroom, but he gets back on that horse with two other women while Danni goes to the pharmacy to buy some Plan B. Yes, guys are pigs. There is dark humor, and much of it is funny, but Shephard could have gone for broke here and pulled back noticeably.
However, the final act takes a braver turn than most, where there will be no clear bow tied to this ending. While Deutch has played this role before (Zombieland), she does a fine mix of sharply delivered dialogue and cringe humor. While this does not come close to her performance in Buffaloed, which was brimming with temerity, this is not exactly Archie Bunker either. Her character eventually becomes well-rounded. The transformation shifts from exaggerated to natural, as you will see in the final scene, which is intentional.
The film’s best performance belongs to Don’t Make Me Go’s Mia Isaac. She is simply outstanding here, and the film’s final moments wrap the metaphorical bow on the film where Shephard finally reveals her intentions. Social media’s artificiality and insincerity on meaningful issues are no match for someone who actually believes in them. The result is a message most should take to heart — you cannot fake your voice. And until you find it, you step aside for those with the ability and power to use it.