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Not Okay is really unlike any other film I’ve seen. Much of the success of this film is due to the cast. Zoey Deutch and Mia Isaac ground this and give you something interesting to watch. The script falls into a middle ground because it’s not poorly constructed, but it does have an average feeling about it. Both the comedy and drama have moments where they work well but honestly, this film doesn’t go as far as it should have.
Zoey Deutch learned very well from her mother Leah Thompson. She has blossomed into a very capable actress and her performance here is convincing. Her character is very interesting because at the beginning we find ourselves very sympathetic towards her but soon after our introduction, she engages in behavior that’s about as unsympathetic as can be. I was very interested in how quickly I soured on her as a character.
Wanting attention on social media is common in today’s world and I do not fault her character for desiring that. It’s innately human to want interaction and to want people in your life who care about you. What she chooses to do after things get out of hand though is what will turn you against her.
Part of what makes Deutch’s performance so good is that she doesn’t become a caricature or a cardboard cutout completely unlikable character. This is a fleshed-out character with many characteristics, and she isn’t all good or all bad. She’s misguided and her actions are inexcusable but the character herself is layered, which makes the story a lot more interesting.
Her relationship with Mia Isaac’s character and how that unfolds is the heart of Not Okay and what moves you. Isaac is a very gifted young woman, and she is phenomenal in this. She delivers a powerful performance, especially for someone her age. There are several moments where she delivers monologues that are guaranteed to have you locked in. Her character is a young high school aged shooting survivor who has reached a high level of fame due to her activism.
I liked how Not Okay showed her having an effect on Deutch’s character. Their connection is an example of the emotional depth that exists in this film. What happens between them is also an example of the realism this film portrays. This is not a film that believes in a traditional Hollywood ending. I’m not going to give too much away but let’s just say that Deutch’s character doesn’t get a pass and there’s a ripple affect caused by her actions. I appreciated the realistic approach and I think it’s more powerful.
One of the weak links unfortunately is Dylan O’Brien’s character. O’Brien plays a supporting character who becomes irritating very quickly. I think making his role so clownish was a mistake that weighs things down. The issue isn’t with O’Brien himself, it’s the nature of the character he’s inhabiting.
Another negative note is how Not Okay seems to lose steam as it heads into the latter part of the second act. This is such an interesting premise and I just think more could have been done. I had a feeling like they left some stuff on the table and didn’t reach the full potential. The truth of the matter is that I wanted more. The performances by Deutch and Isaac really are great though and there is a certain level of enjoyment to be had here. Just don’t expect to be blown away.
Not Okay is a film that sports fine performances and offers up mostly satisfying content. Unfortunately, it also stops short of being what I would consider a great film.
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