'Not Okay' Review
Make sure you've got your Photoshop and nowadays unusable Instagram feed up to date because otherwise your topical influencer career will not compare to virality seen in satirical dark comedy Not Okay, which is directed and written by Quinn Shepherd in her sophomore outing. Zoey Deutch plays the main character Danni Sanders, a 20-something lonesome photo editor at a culture magazine who's having trouble being seen and heard. Trying to impress mainly a co-worker and influencer Colin (Dylan O'Brien), she fakes attending a writer's retreat in Paris on her social media with her Photoshop skills. After terrorist attacks occur in Paris, including at a site that she just geotagged, Danni ''returns'' to New York pretending to be a survivor which garners media coverage that gets attention of Colin, her co-workers and popular teen activist Rowan (Mia Isaac).
Not Okay is very much on the cusp of tapping into something current and even provocative, notably in that Shepherd actually wrote a better movie which would have Rowan in the centre of it (at least in the second half), but unfortunately we're instead stuck with Danni for way too many side quests that don't mesh well together. That discrepancy can also be seen in performances by the two actors as Isaac finds a livelier side of Rowan later that is teased after starting from a pretty dark place in a survivors' meeting where she first appears. Both the character and actor have respectable arcs to work with all the way to a betrayal that Danni represents. Deutch struggles a bit because the scenes after the attacks are snapshots at best so they don't give enough of an emotional satisfaction to play with (like letting her go full abuser of fame would, for instance), although she does especially well with awkward comedy to soften that blow.
For what its worth, this type of satirical material can often feel rather dated when it finally gets made and released but that is something that Shepherd doesn't have to worry about. What there is to worry about is that everything feels too obvious, too clean and too large for its own good. The film's soundtrack is a shining example as songs by blackbear, Avril Lavigne and Rico Nasty aren't dangerous enough considering that Danni is actually doing something dangerous in the media landscape. Other directorial problems include surface-level look at young person's loneliness and satirisation of influencer culture, overblown crowd scene that makes the work of DoP Robby Baumgartner and editor Mollie Goldstein impossible and a self-serving cameo by the director herself that should find a comfortable home on ''CringeTok''. Some things you can't fix in post or in Photoshop.
Smileys: Mia Isaac, premise
Frowneys: Directing, soundtrack, story
Bawling night because you're depressed.