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Thursday, Feb 2, 2023
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Sundance 2022: ‘Am I OK?’ is Just OK

Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne’s directorial feature debut Am I OK? premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) are the best of friends, they pretty much know everything about each other. But when Jane is promoted at work and agrees to move to London for her new position, Lucy confesses her deepest, long-held secret: She has liked women for a long time, and she’s terrified by this later-in-life realization. Suddenly, their friendship is thrown into chaos as the two choose different routes by which to navigate the unexpected changes in their lives.

Am I OK? is the feature debut of writer Lauren Pomerantz (Saturday Night Live, Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show). Tig Notaro (One Mississippi, Army of the Dead) is well known for her stand up as well as her acting but takes on the role of co-director with her wife Stephanie Allynne (In a World…, The L Word: Generation Q) who is also an actor.

Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey, Cha Cha Real Smooth) worked well off Sonoya Mizuno (Devs, Maniac). Am I OK? works because of them and their relationship with each other. When they fight, it feels real. When they have deep conversations, it feels real. However, when Johnson is on screen without Mizuno, her character falls a little flat. Similar with Mizuno’s Jane although her relationship with Jermaine Fowlers’ (Bojack Horseman, Coming 2 America) Danny is more entertaining than Johnson’s quest to be comfortable with her sexuality.

Am I OK? works well as a film about the friendship between Lucy and Jane, both actors have great chemistry together. However, I felt the coming out part of the story wasn’t as well put together and was a little cliché at times. Kiersey Clemons’ (Dope, Sweetheart) Brittany is overly forward in pursuing Lucy, coming across more like a caricature than a character. Her interactions with Johnson’s Lucy were a large part of the film but didn’t really work, as much as Clemons tried.

Co-director Tig Notaro has a cameo in the film, which didn’t work for me at all. It felt out of place and more outlandish than the rest of Am I OK?. I’m sure big fans of Notaro will love it however. Sean Hayes (Will and Grace, The Three Stooges) also has a small role as Jane’s boss, Stu. He’s a weird character and again, someone who doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. Having two very small over the top, “comedic” performances didn’t gel with the type of the comedy in the rest of Am I OK?.

The film features really good locations in LA, which are very well shot by cinematographer Cristina Dunlap (Cha Cha Real Smooth, Lightning Strikes). Dunlap is having a good Sundance with Cha Cha Real Smooth and Am I OK? showing off her talents well.

At times it felt like Am I OK? needed stronger direction and more focus. Trying to tell the story of this friendship and also a coming out story proved too much. It sounds achievable but parts of the script as well as the execution didn’t live up to expectations. Am I OK? is not a bad film, but it’s also not a great film. HBO Max acquired distribution rights; a streaming service is a good fit for this movie. It has a short runtime of 86 minutes and isn’t a bad way to pass the time, but temper expectations.

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