Not Okay on Hulu is a compelling examination of the “Zillennial” digital age, the rise of social media influencers, and the media’s unnecessary attention to those who fall directly in line with “cancel culture.” There’s a plethora we can say about the film’s approach to this fine line through a deeply unlikable lead and the sharp, satirical lens Quinn Shephard uses to call out the faults in the system.
You get to the end of the film and ask yourself, why on earth was this made if all it’s going to do is continue giving a voice to those who don’t deserve it? Yet, you’re invested from the moment it begins because you want to know how it blows up in the end and whether or not certain players will understand the proper weight of their actions. Not Okay on Hulu is full of faults, but it works to create a gut-punch of an ending where the only character you care about is the one you’re left thinking about.
Mia Isaac’s Rowen Aldren is the standout character in every way despite Zoey Deutch’s starring credit. Isaac shines widely throughout with an acute display of what it’s like to be part of the minority fighting to have her voice heard. She also serves as the grounding character that allows most viewers to have someone to resonate with and care for. Rowen’s final spoken word poem is thus a powerhouse for emotions, calling out the detail that people like here are told to wait for a change while women like Danni Sanders get films made on Hulu and Netflix. The specific, on-the-nose call-out allows the film to work as a satire because, despite everything, it understands that there’s no sympathy here granted to those who walk all over others.
Where the stories need to be about women like Rowan Aldren, instead, Hollywood draws focus to people like Danni Sanders. And biopics or documentaries still get somewhat solid credibility, but a breaking news story never stays on top for too long when it’s about the people fighting for a change. Their names aren’t always spelled correctly, and the featured images aren’t chosen with as much attention. They’re on the outskirts, fighting for a better world while women like Danni Sanders co-opt their narrative, repeatedly making headlines left and right.
Still, we must continue acknowledging how well the film approaches Rowan Aldren’s character and how brilliantly Isaac embodies the role. The depth and heartbreak centered around her story make every moment she’s on-screen exceptional. No matter how much Danni cries or bats her eyelashes, it’s impossible to sympathize with her actions. And the inclusion of Rowan’s character drives forward the film’s exploitive timetable without feeding into the media’s toxic narrative. She’s the character we’re left wanting more of. She’s the character whose story matters most. And she’s the one who’ll leave a mark.
Not Okay on Hulu starts with a warning depicting that there’s an unlikable heroine in the film, and while I appreciated that to a degree, it would’ve been riveting to watch not knowing whether she’d be redeemed or not. Because that’s the norm we’re used to, subverting expectations this way could’ve led to a more intriguing ending without the title card telling us so. And maybe that’s because this writer has seen too many movies, which means it’ll be different for those not paying as close attention. Still, Zoey Deutch is fantastic in building upon a deeply complex character.
Yet, a fascinating part of the film is that while Danni is unlikable and her actions make you want to throw something on your screen, there’s a small, human part of you that wonders if she’ll ever learn her lesson. Will she get to a point where she understands the depth of the trauma she was emulating? Will she ever understand why her tone-deaf comments are so horrifically wrong and misguided? Will people like her ever realize that they’re a tremendous part of the problem in this world while their actions continuously take attention away from the causes that matter?
In the digital age of social media that we’re living in, it’s hard not to be outright disgusted at times when one part of the world is burning through unheard heat waves, and the small fraction of billionaires are navigating through which jet to take for a short, 20-minute trip. It’s hard not to be frustrated when that’s the trending topic on Twitter instead of a far more critical cause that isn’t gaining the necessary traction. There’s also the matter of how the film forces journalists to acknowledge their part in all this. What we use for clickbait and what we draw attention to directly feeds into the toxic narrative at times. But this is part of the job, isn’t it? And that, in and of itself, is yet another atrocity to discuss.
Not Okay on Hulu is a glaring look into the right and wrongs of the digital age of social media influencers with an exceptional cast grounding the screenplay. Dylan O’Brien is delightfully horrible as Colin, and Zoey Deutch dives headfirst to bring Danni’s demons to the forefront. Mia Isaac is indescribably brilliant as Rowan Aldren. Thereby, faults included, it’s a fantastic film where it matters.
Not Okay is now streaming on Hulu.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) — or, as people often call her, "Goose" — is a romance aficionado who's taken her Master's in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters.