Not Okay movie review and movie summary (2022)

It’s no spoiler to say that Danni Sanders becomes one of the most hated people in the world because “Not Okay” opens in the wake of her being exposed as a massive, amoral fraud. When Danni suggests later in the film that she’s strong enough for a Twitter bully or two, it’s fun to think back to this opening where the entire internet seems to hate her. Why has Danni Sanders become the most canceled person in years?

“Not Okay” jumps back two months to reintroduce Danni as a photo editor at an online magazine called Depravity — a clever name for a site I wanted to read. Her first scene with her boss Susan (Negin Farsad) is one of the film’s funniest, as Danni laments the very small problems in her life, including being on a cruise vacation during 9/11, which leaves her unable to experience it collectively with her age group. She is so shallow she has “FOMO for 9/11”. Even before the plot of “Not Okay” really kicks in, Danni has been set up as a social media being who doesn’t understand the difference between tragedy and happiness — after all, both boost social following, right? She is from an era where any definition that can be used in a social profile is a good thing.

And that set-up leads to the lie that will change Danni’s life. It starts simply. She stumbles through a conversation with her crush Colin (a rather dull Dylan O’Brien), a colleague who walks in a constant cloud of vape, which ends with her saying she’s going to France. She doesn’t have that and can’t afford it. Instead of going back to the lie, which Colin has probably already forgotten, she comes up with a plan. She uses her photography skills to make it look like she’s on a writer’s retreat in Paris. One morning she posts a picture of herself at the Arc de Triomphe, and then the City of Light is attacked by terrorists, including a bomb right where she posted from. Danni decides to go with it and pretends to be a survivor, and her new social celeb status rises even higher when she teams up with an actual survivor superstar named Rowan (Isaac) who has become an outspoken activist after living through a school shooting.

There are a lot of claims in “Not Okay” that Danni is unlikable and won’t get a redemption arc, but the script constantly pushes back against the potential for truly dark satire because it’s almost too empathetic to Danni’s case. There is a version of this movie really leans into the horror show of people profiting from an actual tragedy, in whatever way the word means. It feels like Shephard isn’t quite willing to go there, which leaves some of the film toothless. Danni do learn from Rowan. She learns that survival stories come with real stakes and that there are real people on the other end of hashtags like what she and Rowan coined, #ImNotOkay. (There’s also an underexplored aspect of the script here about stealing other people’s pain, as Danni does to Rowan.) Social media has a habit of dehumanizing people, and it’s nice to be reminded of that fact in the Insta-Era. But I kept wishing that “Not Okay” was willing to live up to that opening salvo in a way that makes viewers really uncomfortable.

“Not Okay” ends up somewhere in a valley between satire and character study. It’s not sharp enough to be the former and not realistic enough to be the latter. So what’s left? Another sharp piece of acting from Deutch – there is one much worse version of this very film with an actress who doesn’t understand how to walk the tonal line of this character – and some interesting food for thought. I just wanted a little more to chew on.

On Hulu today.

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