Not Okay is Okay

A candy-colored mashup of Vox Lux, Emily in Paris, and Hated in the Nation (Black Mirror) – the film Not Okay is an incisive satire on the dangers of social media, the cluelessness of white women, and the appropriation of trauma.

The film follows Danni, played with fantastic commitment by Zoey Deutch, who fakes a trip to Paris so she can impress a guy at work. Quick tangent for a second: she works for a clickbait company called Depravity, which is hands-down the best parody of a clickbait company name I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, her fake trip to Paris is cut short by a terrorist attack in the actual Paris. So Danni, social-media narcissist that she is, decides to pretend that she witnessed the attack. Because the only thing more popular than a white girl on Instagram is a traumatized white girl on Instagram.

We also get a gold performance from Dylan O’Brien as the male version of Danni, complete with marijuana and a rather appropriate ‘I like damaged girls’ complex.

On the one hand, the plot is comfortably generic: it’s a comedy that gradually morphs into a drama. It’s not particularly groundbreaking, but for most of the film, it expertly follows the format to a T. The shock humor of Danni’s actions hook you in the first half, and her journey to redemption anchors you in the second half. She slowly realizes that there are real people who have suffered trauma, and her posing as a victim is (shockingly) not okay.

On the other hand, the film is a tongue-in-cheek criticism of this trope, the trope of ‘redeeming the clueless white girl’s mistakes’. Danni is so utterly, utterly trashy, that it’s hard to feel anything but revulsion for her. And just in case this isn’t clear, the film opens with a trigger warning that it features an ‘unlikeable female protagonist’.

Granted, the film is also a commentary on toxic internet hate culture – toxic hate directed at anybody is still toxic. But at the same time, usually this sort of story would feature some redemptive quality early on to endear us to the protagonist. Instead, one of the first things we learn about Danni is that she regrets that she was on a cruise during 9/11, because it was a formative trauma for her generation… :/

I suppose it also borrows from Fight Club because Danni goes to a support group despite not being a victim. It even has its own Bob!

This deviation from the usual arc is very intentional, and ends the film on a deliberately different note than what you might expect. It starts as an apparently straightforward comedy/drama, but ends as a cautionary tale, without being completely depressing. So it gets points for subversion.

Still though, it seems to lose steam as the story progresses. I almost would have preferred to see Danni be completely toxic and aloof, instead of following a quasi-redemptive arc. In any case, it’s a solid, diverting, socially-aware film. It’s no Vengeance (B. J. Novak’s newest film, which I’m realizing is a masterpiece of current social commentary). But it’s still… Okay.

Rating: 6.5 / 10

Shameless plug for IANOWT, which is fantastic and completely unrelated except for the name.