In the age of Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, and Instagram I suppose it’s only natural that we get a cautionary tale on the dangers of social media and the World Wide Web. At first glance it’s pretty easy to question the need, but if there are kids in the world as dim-witted as some we meet in “Nerve” perhaps we do need a cinematic intervention.
“Nerve” is directed by the duo of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The two are probably best known for their clever 2010 maybe-documentary “Catfish”. The two movies are obviously different, but they do have something in common – both play with the connection between young people and social media. For “Catfish” it was limited to Facebook. For “Nerve” the playground is significantly bigger.
Emma Roberts plays Venus Delmonico, but everyone knows her as simply Vee. She’s a smart and somewhat reserved senior in high school with an art school scholarship waiting if she chooses to take it. Contrast her with her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade), a rambunctious popularity hound who has become an internet “somebody” by playing a cyber reality game called Nerve. It’s basically live-streaming Truth or Dare where you gain money and (more importantly) followers by doing dumb stuff in public. The followers then dare you to do something even dumber and they watch as you stream it. Yippee.
Fed up with Sydney constantly pointing out her lack of moxie, Vee begins playing Nerve. Her first dare crosses paths with another player Ian (Dave Franco). Their followers team them up for an assortment of dares across New York City, each a little riskier than the previous one. The dares move from embarrassing to life-threatening and the game (much like the film) eventually gets completely out of hand.
At times “Nerve” is presented like a music video – high energy, bright lights, pounding modern music. It all fits in with the film’s hyper pacing. The story never stays planted in one place very long which is probably a good thing. It keeps our attention away from the shallowness of the characters and the stupidity of their actions. And by the time we get to the final act no amount of fast pacing can cover how preposterous things become.
There is a lively, spirited heartbeat in “Nerve” that pretty much runs from the opening title screen to the ending credits. Joost and Schulman deserve credit for sustaining that energy as they explore some intriguing internet-based themes. But the film is undercut by its story’s inability to finish and its flimsy handling of its characters. For example, you get the sense that the movie wants us to believe these characters are deeper than the surface impressions we are left with. It never convinced me. And by the time the story reaches its climax practically all logic is out the window. So for all of its hip style and colorful vivacity “Nerve” still has issues it can’t quite overcome. But then again maybe I’m just getting old
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS