Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Juliette Lewis
I feel old. Those were some of the very first thoughts I had while watching Nerve. The thing to keep in mind is that I’m only in my thirties, which provides an unsettling realization in the generational gap between myself and the kids in this movie. Emma Roberts is playing significantly younger as high school senior Venus “Vee” Delmonico. She’s trying to stay focused on her future and if she should attend Cal Arts in the fall. She’s feeling some pressure to stay home with her mom (the underused Juliette Lewis) as the death of her brother two years prior still hits a sore spot. Best friend Sydney (Meade) has been obsessed with a new cell phone game/app called Nerve. It’s a truth or dare style game minus the truth part of it. It’s a secret society where you decide to become a player or watcher. If you’re a player, you’re given dares from fellow watchers that grow in intensity the longer you play. The more dares you complete, the more money you receive in your bank account. It also helps if you gain a substantial number of watchers following your every move.
Vee feels that pressure to live a bit dangerously and decides to become a player. Her first dare is simple enough. It’s to kiss a stranger for five seconds in a public place. That stranger just happens to be Dave Franco as Ian who’s sitting alone at a café reading her favorite book, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolfe. How convenient. He’s also playing Nerve and his dare was to be in that place at that time with that book. Ian and Vee become insta-celebrities in the world of Nerve. The further into the game they get, they realize that there is no way out given what happens when you fail, bail, or snitch.
The release of Nerve comes shortly after the global phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. The later is a simple game for your phone where you capture Pokémon characters that pop up in your everyday life. It’s certainly not as dangerous as Nerve, but it has its downfalls. Not that there’s anything wrong with the concept of Pokémon Go, but as I watch Nerve, I wonder if we are headed in the wrong direction. The game of Nerve is so dangerous and idiotic that it seems like no smart person would actually play that. Vee is supposed to be a smart character, but she makes stupid decision after stupid decision throughout the movie. Are we supposed to believe that this game is plausible and that kids are dumb enough to subscribe to it? If so, that concept frightens me due to how the film plays out. Some of the dares made me uncomfortable. They’re unsettling to say the least. Is the movie providing some sort of commentary on the direction our society is headed or am I just giving it too much credit? Maybe it’s supposed to be “just a movie” to be taken at face value. A majority of it does feel unrealistic. I kept wondering where the cops and pro-hackers were while all of this is going on? The makers of the game claim it’s all legal and that snitching is against the rules, but how can a game of this magnitude be kept secret for so long? There are some undergrad techie wizards that can manipulate the game, but are there no officials out there trying to stop these individuals knowing full well that teens are getting injured and dying because of this game?
One of the more believable aspects involved the power we lend to the watchers, who in all reality, are the internet trolls. They are out there providing their mindless commentary hiding behind a username knowing full well that their comments are taken seriously. It’s a sad reality that so many teens are driven by the number of likes they receive on any given post, but it also showcases just how dangerous these watchers can be.
Nerve is in the apt hands of directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who were behind the Catfish documentary and Paranormal Activity 3 and 4. It is visually appealing with how immersive the camera gets to make you feel you are in on the dare. It was first a book by Jeanne Ryan with a script by Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story). I’ve never read the book, but it definitely has that young adult vibe to it. The pace is swift and should keep the attention of its target audience. Both Emma Roberts and Dave Franco are out to have a fun time even if they aren’t stretching too far. Roberts has been making a name for herself on American Horror Story and Scream Queens. This is the third movie for Franco this summer following Neighbors 2 and Now You See Me 2. This is a decent film for both of them, but they can do far better. Franco needs to start making better career choices so he doesn’t get in a rut of filling the “bro” role.
Nerve had potential to be a topical look at how we use social media platforms and the effects these kinds of games can have on our youth. There is an interesting payoff at the end, but the majority of the movie becomes too ludicrous up until that point for it to be effective.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Only if you’re big into multiplayer immersive games
RATING: 2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS