Review by Sean Boelman
There have been plenty of films that have tried to capture the social media age, and many have failed to do so effectively. Quinn Shepherd’s Not Okay is the latest in the line of movies trying to put their finger on the zeitgeist, and while it takes some very big swings, almost all of them are misses.
The film follows a young woman whose little white lie of lying about being on a trip turns into a ridiculous charade when she decides to fake being the victim of a terrorist attack. It’s an undeniably crazy premise, but one that had the potential to go either horribly wrong or be absolutely brilliant.
Interestingly enough, the movie manages to avoid both of these extremes, but still has some pretty significant highs and lows. For much of the hour and forty minute runtime, it’s just straight cringe comedy as we watch the character embarrass herself repeatedly. And after a bit, it simply isn’t funny anymore.
Of course, there is nothing even remotely resembling subtlety in the film’s themes. The final act even goes so far as bashing the audience over the head with the message in a monologue. One would be lying if they didn’t admit that the final scene is at least a little bit effective, but it still feels distrusting of the audience nevertheless.
Indeed, it’s as if Shephard worried that the character she had created would be a little too likable, and those fears are warranted. Although the character never outright approaches likability, she does toy the line of sympathy thanks to some extremely mixed messaging throughout the movie. And the moral ambiguity route simply does not feel justified here.
Zoey Deutch gives it her all in her performance, and for what it’s worth, she does a solid job. She manages to be both annoying and charming, which is exactly what was needed for this role to work. And while the supporting cast is largely underutilized, Dylan O’Brien is funny in a one-note turn and Mia Isaac is much better here than in her other streaming film this month.
What the movie is really missing is a sense of style. Everything feels like a pretty standard studio comedy, and there’s no real zing to it. Giving it more of a modern flair could have helped bring more energy to the table, but it seems as if Shephard was too obsessed with the script to take the bold creative swings stylistically.
Not Okay isn’t as bad as it could have been, but it also feels somewhat misguided in its approach to its premise. Kudos to Quinn Shephard for trying to make something as complex as this, even if it didn’t always pay off.
Not Okay streams on Hulu beginning July 29.