I don’t really know what writer/director Quinn Shepherd (Blame) was trying to say with Not Okay. It’s supposedly a jet black comedy about social media celebrity and FOMO, and the lead character Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is definitely a callous hanger-on wanting to taste fame by gloming onto real-life tragedy, but the tonal inconsistency hamstrings the cohesion of the message and the overall entertainment value.

The film begins well, establishing Danni as selfish and clueless, with some sharp lines like her feeling she missed out on a big millennial formative experience of 9/11 and asking, “Can tone deaf be a brand?’ She fakes being in Paris to impress a douchey vaping influencer (Dylan O’Brien) and during this time terrorists bomb the French capital. Sensing an opportunity, Danni pretends to be a victim and she is given a voice, a platform, and sympathy from strangers. Halfway through, however, the movie transitions into something more earnest by introducing a real survivor of trauma, Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school shooting survivor who advocates for political reforms. Until this character, everyone is the movie has been a stereotype, pastiche, or easy send-up, and now the movie wants us to take it seriously, and the satire just atrophies. You can either go one of two ways with a concept like this: satirize some aspect of our shallow society in go-for-broke style like World’s Greatest Dad, or turn it into a personal thriller of how far will she go to maintain the lie and will she be caught like Shattered Glass.

Not Okay tries to do both and in doing so the accrued tonal dissonance causes both approaches to suffer. I don’t care whether she’ll get caught because she’s not interesting as a person because she’s made to be an avatar of attention-seeking validation. I am not laughing because the movie drops being a comedy for much of the second half and its satirical points are fairly broad and already been done in better movies. The end has a blunt message about white saviors co-opting the voice and spotlight from genuine suffering of people of color, and in a smarter movie it would resonate more. However, with Not Okay, it’s just another example that all human suffering can be co-opted to make more obvious insights appear more meaningful.

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron is the Awards Editor and Founder of Awards Focus, in addition to being a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's Behind the Slate Screening Series for Emmy and Oscar nominees, The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series, The Hollywood Music and Media Academy FYC Series, and Emmy & Oscar panels for Society of Lyricists and Composers.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, Lovecraft Country & The White Lotus; and the Apple TV + hit series Ted Lasso.

In February of 2020, Byron hosted and organized the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

Byron is also a patent holding inventor, screenwriter, and songwriter (X-Men Apocalypse) in addition to being a proud member of The Society of Lyricists & Composers and BMI.

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