Hulu’s ‘Disagree’ Review: A Gen-Z Cringe Comedy With a Surprising Center
If filmmakers have learned anything about the internet over the past decade, it’s that trying to faithfully recreate the ever-changing trends, slang and fashions that dominate online culture is often a maddening rush – too quickly as something can become popular online, it will become “cringe” twice as fast. Despite a long and unsuccessful history of movies trying to produce stories about influencers who are not completely out of the loop, Quinn Shephard Not good somehow manages to reverse the curse that plagues films before it, delivering an eerily familiar (if slightly pompous) portrait of online fame that’s as funny as it is honest.
With Zoey Deutsch, Not good follows spoiled rich girl/budding influencer Danni Sanders, a photo editor at a trendy online magazine who aspires to become a writer and achieve the same level of online fame as her colleague/office crush Colin (Dylan O’Brien ). When she has the brilliant idea of inventing a fake French writer’s retreat and simulating a trip to Paris (with the help of Photoshop), her plan seems to work perfectly, that is, until that the Paris bombings happen, and everyone assumes she was actually there.
Although the obvious decision is to tell the truth and explain that the photos of Paris were fake, Danni, in love with her newfound fame and attention due to her “survivor” status, sticks to the lie and things spiral out of control, especially when she strikes up a true friendship with real Rowan (Mia Isaac), survivor of the school shooting.
It’s no secret that much of the appeal of Not good comes from the film’s attempt to replicate 2020 and 2021 TikTok trends. The film’s production has been extensively documented online and often won praise for its costume-accuracy. From trendy prints to chunky rings to bleached streaks of hair, Danni looks like he stepped straight out of a viral TikTok circa Fall 2020. Overall, there seems to be a disdain (somewhat understandable) for influencers as depicted in film and television, so for Not good paying genuine attention to detail in its emulation of online culture is a refreshing change of pace. Yes, it’s poking fun at a generation chronically online, but it’s also doing it in a clearly affectionate and well-researched way.
At the center of it all, of course, is Zoey Deutch as Danni, a character whose moral dilemma matches characters like Dear Evan Hansens titular Evan, but who doesn’t benefit from any of the aforementioned film’s pardons. Although it’s not a wall-to-wall drag through the mud, Not good pulls no punches when it comes to portraying his leading lady as morally despicable, nor shy of recreating the kind of online vitriol (doxxing, death threats, comparisons to Hitler) that would surely arise if all this fiasco had happened in real life.
At the same time, however, Danni isn’t a totally irredeemable character (despite a tongue-in-cheek content warning before the film begins that might say otherwise), nor is Not good cast her as the type of character we’re supposed to hate for the duration of the movie. Yes, his decision not telling the truth immediately after the bombing is obviously mind-boggling, and his added deceit – particularly in regards to Rowan – is despicable, but Deutch gives such a multifaceted performance that, even when we to know Danni took it out on herself, deep down you can’t help but feel at least a little bad for her.
Although Danni can make some truly reprehensible decisions, there is a relatable vulnerability for her and a desperate desire for fame, or even just acknowledgement, which I think we can all relate to on some level. The movie is careful to remind you that you’re not supposed to support her when she can get a little too likable – she’s prone to getting into squeaky TikTok slang or outlandish gestures at the wrong time – but it also takes a clear and conscious decision to approach Danni as a character, not just a caricature, and that difference is what helps it stand out from previous portrayals of budding influencers.
Of course, she’s not a paragon of virtue either. She is vapid, selfish, spoiled, and seems willfully obtuse when it comes to engaging in any kind of meaningful conversations about trauma. When it comes time for her to issue a “sincere” apology, she uses the kind of language we’ve come to expect from the notorious Notes/YouTuber app apologies, with excuses scattered to boot: “I’ll do better.” I was depressed at the time. I was stoned. But Zoey Deutch’s performance (coupled with Sheppard’s perfect screenplay) is so effective that in the credits, it’s hard to come away with a strong opinion of Danni. You clearly don’t like her, but you don’t hate her either. At the very least, Danni is a character the movie strives to make you to understandwhich pays off big.
Surrounding Danni is a herd of decidedly less fleshed-out stereotypes: equally vapid, trend-obsessed colleagues, yuppy queer personas who barely dodge clichés, and at the center of it all, Dylan O’Brien’s vaper Colin. : the embodiment of E -boy. Although Colin is much more the type of one-dimensional character we’ve come to expect from internet comedies, there are still moments of honesty when the mask drops – especially during an exchange with Nadia Alexander’s Harper – that makes him a memorable addition beyond the cheesy laugh and fake “blaccent”.
Undoubtedly, however, Not good’The real scene-stealer is Mia Isaac as Rowan, a young survivor of a school shooting whom Danni meets at a trauma survivor support group. While at first Rowan is a little put off by Danni’s constant slang and bubbly personality, the two quickly form a close bond built on what Rowan considers a shared trauma. In a film full of dizzying, influential characters, Rowan is a breath of fresh air and a welcome presence whenever she’s onscreen.
While she, too, could be considered a play on internet famous teens (albeit far more flattering, based on the likes of X González and Amanda Gorman), her characterization is taken much more seriously and eventually becomes one of the most honest and realistic portrayals of gun violence produced by Hollywood. Isaac gives a stunning performance. Whether she’s having a one-on-one with Danni or delivering spoken word poetry, there’s a simultaneous vulnerability and strength for Rowan that seems far too true to life – and that makes it all the more painful. knowing that she will eventually find out the truth about the girl she thinks is a friend and another survivor.
While sometimes Not good tipping the line between parodying Gen Z influencers and mirroring them, the film is still, without a doubt, one of the most successful portrayals of internet fame to date – a squeaky comedy for a digital age that has a surprisingly poignant and heartbreaking core. Between on-site production design and a pair of dynamic tall ladies in Zoey Deutch and Mia Isaac, Not goodThe honed sensibilities of this make it a must-have watch for 2022, not to mention a definite entry into the canon of on-screen influencers.
(featured image: Hulu)
—The Mary Sue has a strict commenting policy that prohibits, but is not limited to, personal insults towards somebodyhate speech and trolling.—
Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]