The intricacies of online cancel culture, appropriation and white privilege are an easy subject for satire. In a world where laughter is the best way to bring down medicine lest it ignite a war of words, an opinion on cultural policy is best served as a caricature of itself, but one that always gets to the heart of its observations. This is where the satirical antics of Hulu Not good succeeds in spades. The film is true to what it portrays, from internet suppressions to Gen Z culture to digital media – and its main focus, the insidious encroachment of white feminism on different facets of marginalized experience. , is particularly laser-focused. The film is an incessant questioning of what our young people are becoming, what they want and what are the rules for obtaining it, but its humor and humility make it one of the best recent satires.
Not good follows Caroline Calloway-obsessed, Gen Z, aspiring writer Danni (Zoey Deutch) as she navigates New York City. She has no friends, no prospects, and a dead end job as a photo editor for a popular magazine that she would rather write for. In a desperate attempt to catch the attention of hot and culturally appropriate blogger Colin (Dylan O’Brien), she fakes a trip to Paris for an exclusive writer’s retreat and shares the entire stay via Instagram, complete with doctored photos and everything. Everything seems to have gone according to plan until tragedy hits Paris in a way no one expected – and Danni is forced to incorporate it into her ruse, allowing her unimpeded access. to the attention economy she so desperately sought.
The second feature film directed and written by actor Quinn Shephard, Not good is well directed, choreographed and rhythmic. You’d think a nine-part film would be overkill, but it’s easy to digest and each section is justified in its break. It’s also a great dramatic framing device, forcing the audience to focus on the film’s focal points and main beats. Not good becomes a rabbit hole that you are forced to descend, as we all are in the age of social media. A story like this is meant to sound stranger than fiction, and it basically does, but the film is ultimately pretty believable too, which gives it its satirical lens power. This fits into today’s socio-political landscape and isn’t so far removed from the strange power play dynamics we see in influence culture, cancel culture, and just about every other one.” cultures” that deserve to be mentioned today. Despite being over the top, it fits our quirky, attention-hungry little world.
Not good is also obviously loyal to his subjects. Deutch, O’Brien and Mia Isaac, who plays influencer-activist Rowan, do a flawless job of embodying their archetypal Gen Z personas. choices they can make as actors to satirize them. O’Brien toes the line between sweet and insufferable, Deutch is both well-meaning and utterly ignorant, and Isaac has a determined ferocity that can only come from being broken and rebuilt through tragedy and trauma. But it’s not just their performances that give audiences an exact idea of what’s roasted in this comedy; the production and costume design are ridiculously exploited in this specific slice of cultural trends they are meant to play with. Danni’s style is a great example of this: Deutch wears trendy brands like Meow and House of Sunny, and wears her hair with blonde highlights framing her face. Even the signature red beret and blue Reformation dress combo she wears is a harbinger of the cliched subculture that is the Gen Z world. That said, what’s in is in. , even if you don’t like it, and this movie is great at emphasizing that while staying true to trends.
There is, of course, such a thing as being too on the nose. The actual crook Calloway has a small cameo at the end, and it needs to be mentioned because it comes at a time when its inclusion negates the point of the film. Until there, Not good keeps its satirical subject matter at arm’s length by approaching it from a bigger, bolder place. Calloway’s inclusion, which adds absolutely nothing to the film, takes us out of its satirical headspace and drives the nail in the head too firmly. Calloway gets twice the screen time earlier in the film—both times when Danni watches her YouTube videos—and Danni is most effective when it’s clear she’s been shaped in Calloway’s image. However, we don’t need to see the influencer in the flesh for this to be effective, and her tense acting looms over one of the film’s final scenes like an opaque shadow. Hints of her in YouTube videos throughout the film are the perfect way to establish her influence, but her actual inclusion corrupts the concept.
That said, Not good redeems itself right after this misstep with a far-reaching and unconventional ending. This unsatisfying and realistic finale lands the satire in its entirety. We were exposed to the realities of what is being parodied, with both comedic and dramatic tactics at play, and the message remained consistent throughout. His final moments double the statement made, but it is one that needs to be reiterated. After all, not everyone has the opportunity to return after a cancellation – we all know that now. What Not good examines is the societal second chance prize, something few, let alone Deutch’s Danni, are truly worth affording.
Director: Quinn Shepard
Writer: Quinn Shepard
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Mia Isaac, Nadia Alexander
Release date: July 29, 2022 (Hulu)
Lex Briscuso is an entertainment, film, and culture writer who eats, sleeps, and breathes exceptional horror, high-profile drama, and top-notch acting. She is a news desk editor at /Film and has signed for FANGORIA, The Guardian, Shudder’s The Bite and EUPHORIA. His horror radio show, YOUR NICHE IS DEAD, is live Mondays at 5 p.m. ET. She tweets @nikonamerica.