Hardly subtle and dripping in satire, Not Okay follows ditsy antiheroine Danni Sanders (Zoey Duetch) as she becomes the most hated person on the internet. In the cluttered age of social media, Sanders attempts to find human connection, laced in a selfish hope for a better version of herself. However, instead of funny TikToks and aesthetic Instagram posts, Sanders takes a disgustingly different approach by pretending to be in a terrorist attack. The disgrace does not come without warning, in fact, the film opens with a disclaimer preparing audiences for the “unlikeable female protagonist.”
A photo editor at a Buzzfeed type magazine, Danni is a talented mimic primarily motivated by obsession. First, with co-worker Colin (Dylan O’Brien) a weed influencer whose style — bleached hair and ambient vape clouds — riffs on the internet’s thirst for e-boy dirtbags. In order to impress him and spite her 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 fictionalized terrorist bombing in Paris that kills dozens. However, supporting character and teen activist Rowan Aldren (?) is placed at the very core of the film, their bond acting as a possible scapegoat for Danni’s wrongdoings.
Not Okay jumps back two months to introduce Danni. Her first scene with her boss Susan (Negin Farsad) is the film’s funniest as Danni laments the totally minor problems in her life, including being on a cruise vacation during 9/11, making her unable to experience it collectively with her age group. She’s so shallow that she has “FOMO for 9/11.” Even before the plot of “Not Okay” really kicks in, Danni has been set up as a social media creature who doesn’t understand the difference between tragedy and happiness – after all, both boost social followings, right?
The movie functions as a vicious takedown of the superficial culture that has developed around the need to accumulate “likes” and “friends” as if they have any real meaning. The director forces the audience to wonder, ‘is Danni an amoral monster, or a victim of the culture she has been thrust into?’ Her interactions with Rowan force her to re-examine her life in a way that she had never thought possible, through the lens of a human rather than an algorithm.