Deutch talks to IndieWire about mastering the “unlikable female protagonist” and giving a delightfully unbalanced performance in Quinn Shephard’s satire of internet fame.
[Editor’s note: The following story contains light spoilers for “Not Okay.”]
Although filmmaker Quinn Shephard starred in her 2017 feature debut “Blame,” Shephard opted to stay behind the camera for her second outing, the internet satire “Not Okay.” And she couldn’t have asked for a better proxy than star Zoey Deutch, a fearless performer with a bubbly presence that belies the complexity of the characters she often plays. The ‘Set It Up’ star was immediately impressed with Shephard’s script, which gave her a fresh spin on the kind of “fascinating character” she enjoys playing.
“Quinn is a very gifted writer. I was struck with courage [her screenplay] was and how impressive it was. There were no details. You read a script like that and it’s really hard not to want to play a role like that. Danni Sanders is a fascinating character,” Deutch said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “I was really excited that Quinn wanted to invite me into the production process alongside her and be her partner in crime.”
As Shephard told IndieWire, Deutch was always her first choice for the role, and she was extremely impressed with Deutch’s desire to be honest with such a dodgy character. Other people, Shephard said, weren’t quite as brave when it came to the film or her starring role, but Deutch was comfortable from the start. And why not? She has already made an art of it.
As a lonely young woman caught up in a lie beyond her control, Danni’s role is eerily similar to Deutch’s role in Ryan Murphy’s high school political comedy “The Politician,” in which she played a fake patient. with cancer, or the “Buffaloed” scam-centric feature, which cast her as a debt collection scammer. Although a very different project from the campy Netflix series or dark comedy, “Not Okay” also finds dark humor in over-the-top characters dealing with trauma.
The film opens with a tongue-in-cheek content warning informing viewers that the film contains “flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist.” Although Danni’s characterization as unlikable was reinforced by audience comments during test screenings, Deutch doesn’t see it that way.
“I’m much more interested and focused on relatability,” she said. “She’s constantly uncomfortable, because she just doesn’t know how to say or do the right thing. And she has no friends and yes, she has no friends because she is privileged and unpleasant to be around. I’m not saying she’s a victim, but I’m saying she’s lonely and lost. … She is the smoke, not the fire. She is a product of her environment.
When Danni’s plan to invent a writer’s retreat in Paris which she will “attend” by posting all kinds of fake social posts quickly turns into her “surviving” a horrific event, she suddenly becomes internet famous du jour. on the next day. Initially, Danni’s scheme is inspired by her desire to interest Colin, Dylan O’Brien’s influencer, but when Paris is the scene of a tragic terrorist attack, Danni feels compelled to act as if she is there, she survived it and she has plenty to do. say about it.
As his subscriber count runs into the thousands, Colin suddenly notices him, like everyone else in his life. Although the film can be read as a scathing critique of social media and internet fame, Deutch sees it as a way to explore something deeper.
“The movie is about a girl who is desperate for this boy’s approval and attention, and it’s falling apart because of it. Yes, she wants more followers, and yes, she wants to be famous. But that really comes after his desire for connection and his absence,” Deutch said.
The movie is split into eight chapters, breaking the silly con man’s story into small, satisfying chunks. Without giving too much away, the title of the final chapter promises that Danni not get a “Redemption Bow”. According to Deutch, Shephard shot at least two different endings before landing on the film’s eventual conclusion, which shows some growth for the character without letting her stall.
“She never says ‘sorry’ once, the whole movie, about anything, not even casually, it’s not a word in her lexicon. And of course a lot of women have the opposite problem , right? They’re constantly saying ‘sorry’, apologizing all the time for things they shouldn’t be. Danni is the complete opposite. She never says ‘sorry,’ Deutch said. very funny fact, while we were filming, I would sometimes say ‘sorry’ in passing, and we had to be like, ‘No, Danni never says sorry!'”
In the final scene, Danni witnesses a performance by Rowan (Mia Isaac), a young activist she befriended under false pretenses. Although it still doesn’t include the word “sorry,” she comes prepared with an apology on her phone.
“But the thing about that apology is that it was never going to be for Rowan, it was going to be for Danni,” Deutch said. “It was going to be an act of selfishness to keep trying to fit into this poor girl’s life. And Rowan is so much better off without her. And that was growth in achievement, step back. And that ending felt a lot more powerful than some of the others.
A version by Searchlight Pictures, “Not Okay” is now streaming on Hulu.