A modern moral fable for the digital age?
Nerve has lots of things going for it. An excellent concept, a solid-to-good cast and directors who are dab hands at manipulating audiences. Ariel Schulman (brother of Nev) and Henry Joost directed Catfish (2010) which is one of the best documentary films from the 21st century. The fact that six years on it is still unknown if it actually is a documentary only emphasizes just how good a film it is. It’s approach going one way then tacking a totally unexpected diversion is only one of the similarities it shares with their latest venture. There’s also the utilisation of social media – just how much trust the little rectangular shaped device we never leave home without?
Vee (Emma Roberts) is a high school senior currently in the process of trying to tell her mother (Juliette Lewis) that she wants to leave home in Staten Island and go to an arts school on the other side of the country. It’s not the first time she’s shied away from life, she shies away from most things. However when Sydney (Emily Meade), her best friend, teasing goes too far Vee decides to prove she’s a Player not a Watcher by signing up to Nerve. Nerve is an online truth or dare game, only without the truth. All though her other best friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is against her participating the first dare goes well and even leads her to teaming up with Ian (Dave Franco), a fellow Player. But as the dares escalate in terms of risk and the manipulation becomes all-consuming it looks like Vee is trapped in the game.
To begin, I just want to start with a bit of a moan about this film. It’s my main issue with it actually – just how ‘old’ these ‘teenagers’ actually are. Let’s go through the stats: Emma Roberts (25 years old), Dave Franco (31 years old), Emily Meade (27 years old), Kimiko Glenn (27 years old), Marc John Jefferies (26 years old), and Machine Gun Kelly (26 years old, and yes, apparently that is his name…) It’s hilarious that the average age of the cast is almost a decade older than the characters they are playing. I know Nerve is not alone with this, I remember finding it hilarious when I found out the cast’s ages of Glee, but I found it far more grating here. For a film that becomes increasingly clunky/ preachy with its moralistic message it almost becomes insulting to have a cast who really don’t look 17/18 feigning at being teens. HOWEVER, the cast are reasonably charismatic enough to get away with this and certainly allow the film to chug away in an entertaining enough manner.
Like many films of this genre it’s based on a high concept and mostly original idea yet doesn’t quite manage to become more than the sum of its parts. It’s the kind of film that when you really think about it falls apart completely and once you finish watching you won’t really remember. AND if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve pretty much seen the entire movie. It doesn’t say anything new about the dangers of the web, is full of cliched outlines rather than characters but does what it sets out to do reasonably well. It’s one of the first film’s to accurately reflect the sea of mobile phone screens that feature within every crowd of people. Plus there’s a Roy Orbison track
Think A Cinderella Story (2004) meets Hunger Games (2012). A tale for teens that will just about entertain adults for the length of it’s 90 minute running time.
‘Nerve’ is in cinemas now.