Last Friday, Searchlight Pictures released the satirical black comedy Not okay on the Hulu streaming service, and with its debut, viewers were treated to a really funny look at social media and how it can sometimes get out of hand. Finding the right balance between satire and a surprisingly meaningful story, Not okay has something to say, and it deserves to be in the conversation about how much social media has taken over the lives of many people chasing views and likes (read our review here).
Zoey Deutch leads the film as Danni Sanders, a woman desperate to become famous and loved on the Internet. Danni’s motivation for internet stardom is sparked by her desire to impress a boy. The boy in question is Colin (Dylan O’Brien), a social media influencer heavily influenced by the likes of Machine Gun Kelly and Justin Bieber. To get Colin’s attention, Danni lies about attending an upcoming retreat in Paris. Over the next week, Danni Photoshops pictures of herself in Paris from her Brooklyn apartment, but it’s a doctored picture of herself at the Arc de Triomphe that changes everything. Minutes after the fake photo was published, terrorists bombed several major Parisian landmarks. Danni perpetuates her lies by faking her return from Paris, making her an internet sensation because she has “survivor” a catastrophic event.
Zoey Deutch effortlessly flows back and forth between biting satire and comedy to more serious nuanced moments as Danni, something we touched on in our interview. Deutch discusses whether she had to find the humanity in Danni to effectively play her, and she also discusses how she could deal with her loneliness, which leads to the beginning of this epic lie. We also discussed reuniting with Dylan O’Brien on this film after working with him before this project on The Outfit.
Dylan O’Brien seems comfortable playing against the type as Colin. He has a very different look in this film with bleach blonde hair and tattoos, and he is fully committed to embodying Colin, a persona we know all too well in pop culture. He is someone who appropriates the street culture without any real connection to the streets at all. It’s the very definition of fake, but their followers eat it up, and that’s something that Dylan O’Brien was fascinated to explore when he took on the role. Why are people attracted to guys like this? What sparks their popularity?
The interesting thing about the Dylan O’Brien interview is that I happened to meet him a month before at a local bar in Hermosa Beach, CA called Tower 12. I’m from a neighboring town called Redondo Beach and Dylan O’Brien moved to Hermosa at a relatively early age and even attended our local high school, Mira Costa. I also went to Mira Costa a few years before Dylan, but the connection was enough to strike up a conversation with him at the bar. We took a quick photo, I chatted with him and some of his friends, and we had a Green Tea Shot together. Within a day or two I was told I was doing interviews for Not okay after this chance encounter, and as we fast forward to the day of the virtual press junket a month later, I debated whether to bring it up, but he did so at the start of the interview, remembering that we met a month earlier. It’s a crazy little world; sometimes the universe can be funny.
The mastermind behind all of this is writer and director Quinn Shephard. She has really created a tone that can be difficult to maintain. The film often jumps from satire to really real moments without missing a beat, and Shephard shows a strong talent for making these notes walk a smooth line without losing focus.
During our chat, I asked Shephard if it was a conscious decision not to make the film a complete demonization of social media. We also explored how she made the dark comedy and satire work alongside the film’s more serious moments. Finally, we also discuss whether she ever considered giving Danni a bit of a redemption arc because despite her big lie, she shows moments of sympathy that make the audience connect with her.
Not okay currently streaming on Hulu!