Not Okay

  • 13 Aug - 19 Aug, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Not Okay aims squarely for the title of “internet film”. Its protagonist, friendless twentysomething Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch), works as a photo editor at a digital media company called Depravity. Her bedazzled phone is totem, oracle, companion – she clutches it near constantly, pecks at it listlessly in her dark Brooklyn apartment. With her two platinum hair streaks and candy-coloured rings, Deutch, who is 27, looks like a Zoomer, and Danni calls herself a “zillennial”, but her obsession with social media perfection and becoming a New York writer feel distinctly millennial.

Like the notorious internet celebrity Caroline Calloway, Danni is the child of rich parents who aspires to writing success without actual writing. Like Anna Delvey, the so-called “Soho grifter” who inspired the Netflix series Inventing Anna, Danni spins a web of intricate lies that win her fawning friends and, eventually, widespread scorn.

Danni is a talented mimic primarily motivated by obsession: first, with co-worker Colin (Dylan O’Brien). In order to impress him and spite more successful co-worker Harper (Nadia Alexander), Danni invents a writer’s retreat in Paris and photoshops her glamorous time abroad. Danni’s silly and somewhat sympathetic lie escalates into an unforgivable, attention-grabbing one after a traumatic event: a fictionalised terrorist bombing in Paris that kills dozens.

Unable to admit that she was never there, Danni barrels ahead. At a support group to bolster her story, Danni meets her second fixation, Rowan (Mia Isaac), a teenage school shooting survivor turned heralded activist. Craving Rowan’s celebrity, genuine purpose and preternatural talent, Danni channels Rowan’s trauma into a viral article, a hashtag, and false clout.

Danni is, clearly, not a person to root for, and it is a testament to Deutch’s bubbly yet grounded performance of anxiety that we care to see her growth, whether in the inevitable comeuppance or the seeds of an actual bond with Rowan. But Not Okay as a whole struggles with what to make of Danni’s house of cards, other than to illustrate that she can build them, that these things happen, that the desire for validation and main characters can breed a vampiric kind of fame. As in, say, a scroll through Twitter, Not Okay occasionally hits a nerve.

– Compilation