Premiering on Hulu on July 29, Not Okay stars Zoey Deutch as an aspiring writer without personal experience to support her career goals.
Danni Sanders is on the cusp of getting fired from her job, has no friends, and has no love life.
As is often the case in movies like this, Danni’s crush on her coworker, an insipid wannabe named Colin, played by Dylan O’Brien, is her catalyst to do the unthinkable.
Danni’s desperation to be on the inside instead of the outside looking in all the time finds her faking a writers’ retreat in Paris and surviving a terrorist attack in the City of Lights.
Sadly, this shortcut to likes and fame isn’t surprising in a world full of people who appear to go to extraordinary measures to feel momentary acclaim through social media clout.
About 80% of Not Okay settles on Danni’s new reality.
She’s obtuse beyond measure, pushing aside the visions she sees of the man they’re seeking for the Paris bombing to stay on the fast track.
Something is clearly digging at Danni, but the forward momentum keeps pushing her forward, and her conscience doesn’t have the guts to smack some sense into her.
Danni does everything wrong, and it makes you embarrassed for her.
It’s almost impossible to connect with her on an emotional level because she’s so dense about the hurt she’s leveling at people who trust her.
When she visits a support group for trauma survivors, she befriends Rowan (Mia Isaac), a young woman who did live through something horrific — a school shooting that left her older sister dead.
Under ordinary circumstances, Rowan wouldn’t befriend Danni, who reacts to an emotional post on Rowan’s Instagram feed with “Skin Goals” and a hot emoji.
It makes you want to cringe.
The tail end of the film deals with the fallout from her endeavor, but it’s too late.
Choosing to take the comical approach to uncover the lengths people will go to fit in doesn’t work.
If we were on the social downslide of people falling into Mount Vesuvius taking selfies or women with millions of followers who don’t have the confidence to share an undoctored photo, this approach might have worked.
Not Okay uses titled chapters to manage its pacing, and there is one chapter near the end that says, “I don’t even get a redemption arc.”
If Danni couldn’t get a redemption arc, at least Rowan gets the last word, and while the message is strong, it’s hard to imagine the audience will take it to heart.
Isaac is the heart of Not Okay, and her character is the most believable, with an arc that elicits a lot of feelings from the viewer. She’s worth the watch.
Deutch deserves better, and O’Brien is wasted.
But, hopefully, whoever watches Not Okay will think about the Rowans of the world and take what she says in the chapter titled “Finale” as the strong message that is meant to be received, even if it’s oddly perched on a movie that doesn’t earn it.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.