Someone Save Zoey Deutch from Not Okay
Not Okay features the eminently likable Zoey Deutch, doing her best to do her worst, all in an effort to get you not to like her. The performance is great – maintaining an element realism in the explicit lack of self-awareness is no easy feat – and Deutch seems to revel in the off-beat role. It’s too bad the movie itself falls down around her.
Not Okay opens with the all-too-cute “I’m sure you’re wondering how I got here” – the proverbial ‘here’ being a place where the entire world hates her, for Danni Sander (Deutch) – before rewinding several months. An unsuccessful, unloved photo editor at a New York magazine, Danni uses her few skills to invent a trip to Paris for herself, only to become the center of attention after a terror attack strikes the tourist trap that she pretended to be at via Instagram that very same day.
The name of Danni’s magazine, Depravity, hints at the parts of Not Okay that come closest to working. Writer-Director Quinn Shephard picks at our obsession with tragedy porn; our canonization of those who exist in an around the chaos; and our shared catharsis that comes with the bullshit happy endings we manufacture through mob-created narratives. Danni teams up with a school shooting survivor turned activist, Rowan (Mia Isaac). Shephard’s story wants to use Rowan as a juxtaposition to Danni’s immense vanity, but her awkward arc only muddies the waters and confuses whatever message might be hiding within.
Not Okay targets myriad other low-hanging fruit – from technology and social media to influencers and identity politics. These efforts are painfully clumsy and on-the-nose, just shooting at random with what it confidently assumes is scathing cultural criticism, but what in actuality is more like the first draft of a tweet that Danni herself came up with while high and half-asleep.
Shephard does show quite a bit of skill as a director, bringing a visual flair and energy that sets the kinetic pace and irreverent tone called for by the script. The costumes are understated yet still standout – a lesson that other parts of the film could have taken. If you like cringe comedy and almost immediately dated cultural commentary, Not Okay might be for you. If you just like Zoey Deutch, maybe wait for her next film.