I Am Not Okay with This: Season 1 Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Premiered on Netflix

i am not okay with this poster large

Directed by Jonathan Entwistle
Written by Jonathan Entwistle, Christy Hall, Liz Elverenli, Tripper Clancy, Jenna Westover, and Charles Forman (graphic novel)
2020, 16-30 minutes each, Not Rated
Premiered on Netflix on February 26th, 2020

Sophia Lillis as Sydney Novak
Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Barber
Sofia Bryant as Dina
Kathleen Rose Perkins as Maggie
Aidan Wojtak-Hissong as Liam
Richard Ellis as Brad Lewis
Sophia Tatum as Jenny Tuffield

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The horror and the euphoria of the teenage years is hardly new material in either the horror or the comedy genre. They’ve been covered ad nauseum, from the deadly seriousness of Carrie to the action-laden exhilaration of Stranger Things to the cringy (but no less horrifying awkwardness) of Superbad. There’s a formula to it, after all, and every entry must adhere to it to some degree. The question becomes, “How do you set yourself apart?”

In the case of Netflix’s newest show, I Am Not Okay with This, the answer is brevity and an unashamed embrace of the uncomfortability of the kind of situations that would make any self-respecting human (regardless of age) sink directly into the floor never to be seen again.

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Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis; IT, Gretel and Hansel) is a “boring white girl” living in the small Pennsylvania town of Brownsville, just outside of Pittsburgh. She’s angry and miserable – the double whammy of puberty and high school suck, her absentee mother (Kathleen Rose-Perkins; Gone Girl) works sixty hours a week since her father hung himself in the basement of their rundown home, and she’s the honorary school weirdo. It’s not all bad though. Her dorky neighbor, Stanley Barber (Wyatt Oleff; IT), thinks she is amazing and has a never-ending supply of marijuana. She has a great relationship with her quirky and adorable little brother, Liam (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong; Falling Water). Her best friend, Dina (Sofia Bryant; The Good Wife), is a beautiful and inspirational force who keeps her going despite the hurdles teenage life throws at her.

Unfortunately, Dina is dating the ubiquitous star quarterback/jock douchebag, Brad Lewis (Richard Lewis; Veronica Mars), and their friendship is falling by the wayside. Things with Stanley get close, and then they get physical. To make matters worse, her pesky guidance counselor gives her a diary and tells her to write down her feelings. Also, she’s developing superpowers that give her the ability to manipulate her environment and the people in it with her mind when she’s angry.

Sydney Novak is angry A LOT, and life is throwing her a ton of curveballs.

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I Am Not Okay with This uses that brevity (the shortest episode is a mere sixteen minutes!) to jump right into the fray and keep you there. It’s a double-edged sword in that there’s no deep mythology (yet), but Sydney’s problems and their often hilarious (and occasionally terrifying) results are presented with all the “backne” and thigh pimples shown without cover-up. You’ll be going firmly in the direction of quirky teen comedy, laughing safely at all the cringiness, when the show takes a hard left turn into something much darker that reminds you that Carrie White was just a teenager, too…and this isn’t the 1970s anymore.

There are layers here to be peeled back, and to give any of it away would ruin the fun and season your interpretation in a way that wouldn’t be fair. Equal parts comic book fantasy, horror, teenage melodrama, and modern romance, I Am Not Okay with This doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to showing you just how spectacularly shitty those years can be. If anything, it’s chock full of tropes that you’ve seen before – school dances, football games, dope smoking shenanigans, mother/daughter conflict, and enough nostalgic callbacks to clog a school toilet during Saturday detention.

There’s literally an entire episode that is a straight homage (I’m being gentle with that word choice) to The Breakfast Club. You might roll your eyes a bit at that, and it wouldn’t be unfair criticism. I say that if you do, however, then you need to check that cynicism a bit.

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The biggest reason to check it is Sophia Lillis. I don’t want to sound creepy (she’s just turned 18!), but I’m a little crazy about this young lady. We’ve seen her grow up on screen while displaying a serious gift and heavy chops, but this may be more of a breakout for her than anything she’s done so far. That’s saying something; she’s already been in some pretty big films with some major names. Her energy here will get you going. I binged the whole season with my fifteen-year-old daughter, and she raved the entire time. Her relationships with both Wyatt Oleff and Sofia Bryant’s characters are every bit as naturally goofy as your own clumsy adolescent fumblings.

She’s not the only character that hits a home run, though. The whole cast will remind you of someone you knew at that age (only a little bit dorkier, naturally). Wyatt Oleff is starting to grow into his talent in a major way. He’ll break your heart a couple of times here. Plus, I’ve not seen too many natural heels as good, as perfectly all-American despicable, as Richard Ellis. What an asshat he is!

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As much as you’ll enjoy this first season, pimples and all, it’s the possibilities opened for the future that get you rubbing your hands together excitedly as you lean a little too far forward in your seat. I did say I Am Not Okay with This will take you by surprise, didn’t I? Good. Bear that in mind. It is one-hundred percent without a trace of hyperbole that I say I can’t remember the last time a finale did exactly what I prayed it would, to the letter, and did it with a pair of balls that require a wheelbarrow in which to carry them around.

So, yeah…set aside the scant four hours or so it’ll take you to binge I Am Not Okay with This.

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Season: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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