Directed by: Quinn Shephard
Premise: A woman (Zoey Deutch) poses as a survivor of a terrorist attack. She achieves fame and fortune and later befriends a young mass shooting survivor (Mia Isaac).
What Works: Not Okay is one of the best uses of actress Zoey Deutch. She has a talent for playing vapid and self-absorbed people as well as an ability to make unlikable characters watchable. Deutch’s character begins the movie as a woman whose life is going nowhere. She is very online and her deceit initially comes from a relatable place; she just wants to be seen and creates an online profile that is more exciting than her daily life. But when the audience misconstrues her content to believe she was at the site of a terrorist bombing, Deutch’s character runs with it and that defines her character. Also impressive is Mia Isaac as an activist and the survivor of a mass shooting. Isaac is credible in the role; we can see the trauma and grief underneath her performance and the film dramatizes post-traumatic stress quite well. The heart of Not Okay is the friendship that blooms between Deutch and Isaac’s characters. The film has a lot of ideas but most vivid is its focus on genuine human connection over digital validation. The very end of Not Okay is noteworthy for the way it subverts conventions. White lie storylines usually end in the same way with the liar coming clean and being forgiven. Not Okay subverts that cliché. In doing so, the filmmakers question the implicit ethos of the white lie narrative and whose stories we are really important.
What Doesn’t: Not Okay reiterates the white lie storyline that we’ve seen many times before with little innovation or deviation. The film shifts inelegantly between different tones. Not Okay begins as a full-fledged satire in the spirit of Election and To Die For and it occasionally shifts back into that mode but with increasing dissonance. Instead, the movie becomes much more of a straightforward drama as it focuses on the activism of Isaac’s character and the very real implications of gun violence. Not Okay’s tonal incoherence undermines whatever the filmmakers are trying to say about online fame or contemporary activism. The picture does not offer much insight and the edge is worn off of its satire.
DVD extras: On Hulu.
Bottom Line: Not Okay is a frustrating movie because there are many elements in it that are very good, namely the performances by Zoey Deutch and Mia Isaac. But these parts never come together to form a coherent whole. Similar stories of media fame were done better in Ingrid Goes West and World’s Greatest Dad.
Episode: #912 (August 7, 2022)