Searchlight Pictures comedy Not Okay starring Zoey Deutch and Dylan O’Brien has arrived on Hulu, diving into a much deeper exploration of the toxicity of internet culture.
Not Okay follows Danni Sanders (Deutch), an aspiring writer that wants nothing more than to be recognized. She fakes an Instagram-friendly trip to Paris in hopes of achieving the job of her dreams and the guy. However, Danni doesn’t expect a deadly terrorist attack at many of the city’s famous landmarks.
This unwittingly causes her to fall into a lie more significant than she ever imagined. She “returns” as a hero, striking up an unlikely friendship with Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school-shooting survivor dedicated to societal change. While Danni may have everything she’s ever dreamed of, the facade fades quickly and she learns just how ruthless the internet can be.
On the surface, Not Okay is basically the Bushwick version of Emily in Paris. The two share many of the same gripes, including French stereotypes and the white American girl’s perspective of Paris. In short, Danni is, in many ways, just as vapid as Emily. The difference is, Not Okay recognizes this and serializes it. Instead of ignoring the protagonist’s issues, director Quinn Shephard chooses a different approach: capitalizing on those wrongs to convey that a girl with “white main character energy” can still be a terrible person.
Much to Deutch’s credit, she’s able to navigate the train wreck that is Danni Sanders and makes her a well-rounded individual. Danni’s social awkwardness and depression create moments where you almost can’t help but feel bad for her, despite all the lies and deceptions she’s told. In the end, though, Danni is very much not okay and she doesn’t get let off the hook for it.
While O’Brien is a supporting character and he doesn’t have a ton of screen-time, his f-boy transformation is one that has to be acknowledged. O’Brien’s Colin is a social media culture vulture that smokes cross joints and works at Depravity with Danni. O’Brien balances the obnoxious insincere nature of Colin perfectly.
One of the film’s strengths lies in Isaac’s Rowan. Rowan is the antithesis of everything Danni stands for. As a school shooting survivor who spends her free time reading spoken word for her school, Rowan is too busy enacting real, social change. The dynamic between Rowan and Danni shows the ugly side of social media, and what propping up disingenuous people does.
In a time when social media-centric projects are becoming the norm, Shephard is able to walk the line between the dangers and importance of internet falsehoods while still poking fun at the ways we’ve gotten to this point as a society. What Not Okay does right that many others can’t seem to do is it tries to find answers to why we promote these types of people as the face of social change. Do the privileged obtain knowledge, remorse? Why do they get let off scot-free, and should they?
Not Okay is available to stream now on Hulu.