Content Caution

HeavyKids
HeavyTeens
HeavyAdults
Not Okay 2022

Credits

In Theaters

Cast

Home Release Date

Director

Distributor

Reviewer

Emily Clark

Movie Review

Have you ever wanted to be noticed so badly that you didn’t even care what it was for?

Danni Sanders sure has. In fact, she wants to impress a cute guy at work so much that she fakes a trip to Paris.

Truth be told, the guy probably couldn’t have cared less. But the same morning that Danni posts a photoshopped image of herself standing beneath Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe, a terrorist bombs it and several other tourist sites around the City of Lights.

Danni could have (and should have) come clean right there. All she had to do was admit that she made up the “writer’s retreat” she claimed to be on and confessed that the pictures were edited.

But then the guy messages her on Instagram asking if she is OK.

What Danni does next is decidedly not OK. She continues her lies and manipulates the sympathy she receives to get a promotion, a private office, popularity and yes, the guy of her dreams. She becomes famous for telling her “traumatic” story online, coining the hashtag #IAmNotOkay.

But that many fibs can be hard to keep up with. And Danni soon learns that what you’re famous for is more important that the celebrity itself.

Positive Elements

Danni’s journey has very few redeeming elements to it. However, Not Okay seems intended as a cautionary tale, and some lessons can certainly be derived from it. For starters, by getting everything she ever wanted, Danni realizes that what she wanted wasn’t, in fact, what she needed. (And that being famous isn’t always what it’s chalked up to be.)

Secondly, Danni learns an important, if hard, lesson about consequences of our actions. After issuing a blanket apology for lying, Danni hopes those around her will simply forgive and forget. But that’s not the case. Her actions truly hurt the new friends she has made along the way

[Spoiler Warning] That’s particularly true with Rowan, a teen activist who started an organization to promote gun safety after a mass shooting occurred at her school. Danni inserted herself into Rowan’s life and, in a way, tried to replace Rowan’s older sister, who was killed during the shooting. Danni wants Rowan to forgive her because she truly valued their friendship, but since that relationship was built on lies, Rowan isn’t ready (and may never be ready) to just put it all aside and be buddies again. In the end, Danni refrains from begging for Rowan’s forgiveness, realizing that Rowan’s needs (space and time to heal) and even her desires (to not be friends with people who would lie about something so serious) are more important than Danni’s own desire to be forgiven.

When a coworker discovers Danni’s lies, rather than boost her own career by writing an exposé, she allows Danni the opportunity to come clean herself.

Spiritual Elements

While telling her fake survival story, Danni wonders aloud if God or something else gave her the intuition to leave the Arc before it was attacked. Others who hear her story wonder the same thing. Upon hearing a mention of God, one of Danni’s coworkers gets offended, reminding his colleagues that “this is a non-denominational workplace.” And the offender claims she didn’t mention which god. There is a reference to Ariana Grande’s hit song “God Is a Woman.”

Sexual Content

Danni and Colin (the guy she was crushing on) make out and have sex (though they both remain clothed). During this encounter, Danni is visibly uncomfortable (and inebriated), and afterwards, she purchases and uses emergency contraception. Sadly, Colin is oblivious to Danni’s discomfort, and later ignores her texts since he has already moved on to other women.

A man and woman make out in a dream. Some women and girls wear revealing tops.

At a party for online influencers, Danni wears a revealing dress and at different points pulls it up and tugs it down, embarrassed by how immodest it is. She also covers her cleavage with her hands several times. Later, she gratefully accepts a T-shirt to cover up with and shows off the biker shorts she wore underneath the dress.

Danni has several LGBT coworkers who attend “queer bowling” and state their disdain for “straight people.” (Though they later claim that everyone is a little gay.) Danni claims she kissed a girl in college, joking that she might be bisexual. (Whether this is true remains unknown since it appears Danni was trying to fit in and may have made the story up.) There is crude talk about a woman’s figure.

Violent Content

While we don’t see any violence take place on screen, we do see the aftermath. Rowan has several panic attacks throughout the film—once during a school lockdown drill and once at an anti-gun rally. During the latter, protesters throw firecrackers onstage to scare Rowan and Danni, who are speaking out against gun violence. The experience frightens Rowan so much that she has to be physically carried offstage to an ambulance by a security officer.

Dozens of people threaten Danni (and even her parents and future children) online when she reveals the truth of her actions. One particularly awful person threatens to behead her and rape her corpse. Another asks if it’s too late for her mom to abort her. People sell shooting targets with her face on them. Several people tell her to kill herself. Two vloggers go as far as posting Danni’s home address in a video, telling potential serial killers to “practice” on her. And when a war veteran sees her in a store, he grabs her and tries to physically intimidate her.

Danni and Rowan go to a “Rage Space,” where they are allowed to use baseball bats to destroy furniture and other breakable objects. A woman slaps a man. Rowan asks a man if he believes that first-person shooter video games promote a “culture of gun violence.”

Crude or Profane Language

Nearly 40 f-words make an appearance, as well as 10 uses of the s-word and a written use of the c-word. “A–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “t-t” and “p—y” are also used. God’s name is abused seven times and Christ’s name is abused once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Danni drinks quite a bit throughout the film. She takes prescription medication with alcohol. She allows Rowan to have a sip of beer (hidden in a paper bag). Some men drink alcohol hidden by paper bags. People drink at parties and celebrations.

Colin uses a lot of drugs and is never seen without his vape pen (he also has a tattoo of a marijuana leaf on his neck). After Danni claims that she smokes marijuana “all the time,” they share a homemade blunt (which he later reveals was laced with other chemicals). This experience is at least partially related to why Danni fakes her trip to Paris since she came up with the idea while still intoxicated from the drugs.

We see several ads for CBD. Someone makes a joke about prescription drugs.

Other Negative Elements

The first and most obvious element here is that Danni lies. (She even goes as far as sneaking into a group of survivors arriving back from Paris at the airport.) And when the truth comes out, it hurts her friends and family, ending some friendships. It damages the credibility of the online magazine Danni works for, since they didn’t fact-check her deeply enough; Danni is rightfully fired. And it also brings Rowan’s credibility (which Rowan had already confessed fears about) into question since she promoted Danni.

But there’s two other things to consider here: why Danni lied to begin with and how the internet responded when the truth was revealed.

Danni admits she is depressed. She wanted to be “seen, important, known, loved.” However, she’s also a tactless opportunist who is completely tone-deaf to the pain of others. She claims she’s sad because she didn’t have the “formative trauma experience” of being in New York during the September 11th terrorist attacks or even knowing someone who perished that day. She attends a trauma support group to get ideas for her own story, then takes words directly from their mouths and claims credit to become famous. And even though Danni did find a friend in Rowan, the only reason she gave the teen the time of day was because she realized Rowan was already famous and could boost her own status.

However, how people respond to Danni’s confession online isn’t any better. They threaten her. They encourage others to harass her. They compare her to Hitler. And they say that she’s “everything wrong with white women in America.” The hatred she receives from strangers is extreme. And it’s a telling tale about the toxic state of social media.

At a trauma support group, people describe the emotions they felt during and after their experiences, which could produce difficult emotions for any audience members who have had similar experiences.

Several people call a man by the wrong name and ignore him when he corrects them. We see the top of a woman’s thighs as she uses the toilet. We see a man using a urinal. People use political slurs.

Conclusion

This movie starts with a content warning stating that it contains “flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist.”

The first two, I can understand and vouch for. We see the aftermath of people who survived bombings and mass shootings. It could be traumatic to real-life survivors watching this film. Especially since people claim Rowan is faking her own pain and go as far as setting off firecrackers at a rally that she leads to prove she’s lying. (She isn’t, and the popping noises scare her so badly she has to be physically carried off the stage even after someone tells her it’s just a prank.)

But the last warning—even though it’s obviously intended as sarcastic cultural commentary—still felt a bit insulting.

What Danni did was completely unacceptable, don’t get me wrong. By lying and teaming up with Rowan, she actually weakened Rowan’s own testimony, bringing everything Rowan had said into question since she might have known about (and promoted) Danni’s falsehoods.

However, having an “unlikable female protagonist” is just not in the same category as “themes of trauma”—even if we’re supposed to read it as a grim joke.

What would have been more useful would have been a warning for the language and sexual content present in this film. But if the R-rating didn’t clue you in, allow me: We hear about 40 uses of the f-word (not to mention a written use of the c-word, which, to me, is way more offensive than an unlikable female protagonist) along with other profanities. Danni gets caught up in an extremely uncomfortable (both for her and for audiences watching) sexual encounter with Colin. And LGBT characters (not to mention influencers perpetually high on drugs) play a prominent role at Danni’s workplace where she struggles to fit in because she doesn’t share their sexual identity.

Speaking of identity, perhaps what Not Okay tries to accomplish is this: We get a satire of a young woman desperate to find her worth and meaning in the affirmation and adulation of others. And when her attempt to do so built on a lie that inevitably collapses, the same people she sought affirmation from become an online lynch mob.

Neither of these identities—the narcissistic fame seeker; the trolling, violence-threatening hater—is, to borrow from the title, OK. But the content that this story uses to critique both sides of this cultural equation ultimately isn’t really going to be OK for many audiences, either.

PluggedIn Podcast

Parents, get practical information from a biblical worldview to help guide media decisions for your kids!
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her fiancé indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.