“Not Okay” may star Zoey Deutch and feature her on the poster, but Mia Isaac’s performance and character becomes the shining star.


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“Not Okay” may star Zoey Deutch and feature her on the poster, but Mia Isaac’s performance and character becomes the shining star.

Director(s) Quinn Shephard
Screenplay By Quinn Shephard
Date Released (Hulu) 7/29/2022
Genre(s) Comedy, Drama, Young Adult
Duration 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Cast
Rowan Mia Isaac
Danni Zoey Deutch
Harper Nadia Alexander
Colin Dylan O’Brien

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Film Summary

Until a tragic day in April 2022, Danni’s life wasn’t on track with what she wanted. She went to NYU, had all the privilege in the world, and a part of her seems to recognize that her writing may never have the depth and relatability she needs. But, she becomes a sensation by faking that she escaped a terrorist attack in France 5 minutes before a bombing. Especially once she posts about not being okay, getting a co-sign from a 17-year-old school shooting survivor named Rowan, and experiencing the type of popularity she has longed for.

But, all good things must end, especially when founded on a lie.

Things To Note

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Cursing (Throughout), Violence (Threats of violence towards Danni), Sexual Content (A PG-13 sex scene which has no nudity, just sex being implied), Miscellaneous (drinking, drug use, dialog about traumatic moments)

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. If Danni is no longer seeing a therapist, how is she getting refills of her medication?

Collected Quote(s)

We needed a riot and all we got was a funeral hymn.
— Rowan

Your pain is your biggest asset.
— Rowan

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Rowan

In Oak Valley School in North Carolina, Rowan survived a school shooting that took the lives of over 20 people, and she hasn’t been the same ever since. But, to channel her anger and fear, she has become an activist and a spoken word artist, and in New York, she often presents rally cries alongside going to group therapy and going to a performing arts school.

Danni

Danni is the epitome of white privilege. She went to NYU, and never once did you hear her speak about student loans. Her parents are well-connected, and Danni, while not as productive at her job as she should be, still has one and can afford to live in Bushwick.

But, she is on Lexapro and notes her depression. Also, outside of her guinea pig, it seems she has no friends. Granted, it is partly due to her not being able to read a room and coming off insensitive at times. However, she tries and appears to be the type of person who needs a little grace in order to pick up on social cues.

Harper

Harper (Nadia Alexander) asking Danni questions to see if she is telling the truth
“Harper (Nadia Alexander) asking Danni questions to see if she is telling the truth,” Not Okay, directed by Quinn Shephard, 2022, (Hulu)

A talented writer who potentially could zoom up the ladder, Harper finds herself sidelined once Danni goes viral, and because of this, she uses her journalism skills to debunk all Danni has said about surviving a terrorist attack.

Colin

Colin is a boy from Maine, who pretends to be urban, and with Harper and Danni, works at Depravity. But, rather than trying to be an accomplished writer like Danni or Harper, Colin’s focus is on travel and weed. Mostly weed – though parties, girls, and freebies are also up there on his priority list.

Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Highlights

Deutch’s Charm Makes It So, While You Expect Danni’s Comeuppance, Once It Is Time To Pay The Pauper, You Feel Bad

Danni (Zoey Deutch) after her life blows up
“Danni (Zoey Deutch) after her life blows up,” Not Okay, directed by Quinn Shephard, 2022, (Hulu)

Danni is potentially everything you could hate about those with white privilege or just privilege in general. While she has some skills, as shown by her ability to photoshop, she is lazy, entitled, dismissive, uncouth, and add in some insecurity in there and it makes her insufferable. Yet, one thing Deutch does is help you understand how people with privilege like Danni rise.

All it takes is enough charm and some sense of relatability, and you will quickly disregard all the hand-holding and paved roads they had to become famous. On top of their silver spoon, they get a newly made porcelain pedestal, and for people like Danni, who mean well, have personality, and seem nice, you don’t question them. You just take note of what they say, trust them, and this lasts until it doesn’t.

But, and maybe for some, this could be a negative, Deutch’s charm makes it so, while initially, you want to see Danni get her comeuppance, after a certain point, you don’t. You can see Shephard wanted to show that those like Danni are multifaceted. Yes, they can manipulate you into not thinking twice about how they got or keep their fame. Alongside be joyous for their downfall, but they are ultimately human.

They desire, like anyone else, to find meaning in their life, and need the grace to learn, make mistakes, and grow from them. But, once you reach a certain point, when your name is part of the zeitgeist, that isn’t possible. Danni cannot recover as the internet exists, and the court of public opinion doesn’t believe in repentance.

And as you watch Deutch take on the trauma she lied about experiencing and getting the full arc of going from hero to villain, it’s hard to not feel something for her. Which, all things considered, is shocking.

Mia Isaac As Rowan

Rowan (Mia Isaac) in group therapy, with Danni
“Rowan (Mia Isaac) in group therapy, with Danni,” Not Okay, directed by Quinn Shephard, 2022, (Hulu)

Ever since Jenji Kohan used the term “Trojan Horse” to describe their process of using white characters, as seen in “Orange Is The New Black,” to explore less seen stories of Brown, Black, and/or Trans people, the concept has been stuck in my mind. The idea is that, because a story featuring a person of color, or queer person, wouldn’t sell, you put a marketable white face front and center and slip the story that couldn’t be sold as a subplot.

In many ways, you can see Rowan is that for “Not Okay.” As a survivor of a school shooting, a topic which we’ve more often seen from the shooter’s side, or in an action hero way, via “Run, Hide, Fight.” As for survivors? That is not something we can recall beyond documentaries. So Isaac as Rowan created a powerful impression. One that furthered Danni being viewed as a villain, yet also worked in showing that lacking friendship and a sense of community can make a person desperate.

After all, look at Rowan. Through her group, through her relationship with her sister, and through the other people who are survivors of gun violence, she has found everything Danni craved. So while the role of Rowan could be seen as a supporting role, ultimately, Rowan becomes an equal to Danni, and Isaac’s performance sometimes eclipses Deutch.

Using Chapters to Breakdown The Film

Chapters are such a wonderful way to break down a story. In “Not Okay,” there are nine which help break down Danni’s rise and fall in a way that makes time go by so quickly. Especially for those, like me, who don’t always find watching movies at home as something that comes with ease.

But, when it comes to “Not Okay,” it is a movie that, combined with the performances, by breaking down what will be going on, feels easier to consume. By seeing “Part 1 – No One Understands Me” or “Part V: Rowan,” you feel prepped for what’s to come and what journey this specific chapter will be about. And with each chapter feeling very to the point and not wandering about, “Not Okay” rarely, if ever, has filler.

Colin (Dylan O'Brien) humoring Danni wit ha conversation, while bored talking to her
“Colin (Dylan O’Brien) humoring Danni wit ha conversation, while bored talking to her,” Not Okay, directed by Quinn Shephard, 2022, (Hulu)

Well, outside of a crush Danni has on someone, which made sense regarding her insecurities but didn’t add much to the film. I should note that Colin, the potentially expendable character, wasn’t a liability either. Dylan O’Brien plays a comical stoner and, at worst, is eye candy, and at best, he represents all Danni feels she is missing on and is desperate to obtain.

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Title Card for Not Okay featuring an explosion
Not Okay (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
Overall
“Not Okay” has a wonderful mainline story about the rise and fall of Danni, which allows for layers and complexities not expected. Also, it gives room for Mia Isaac as Rowan to deliver the kind of performance which will surely make her the type of actress we’ll compare others to as the next generation of actors comes of age.
Highlights
Using Chapters to Breakdown The Film
Mia Isaac As Rowan
Deutch’s Charm Makes It So, While You Expect Danni’s Comeuppance, Once It Is Time To Pay The Pauper, You Feel Bad
Disputable
86

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