Nerve (2016)

  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Crime | Mystery | Thriller
  • Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
  • Cast: Emma Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Dave Franco, Emily Meade


A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”


  • A sort of mishmash between Pok√©mon Go, Gladiator, The Game, and The Hunger Games, the titular mobile application Nerve is a 24-hour game wherein players are made to perform dates crafted by online communities of watchers. There are a couple of rules – all the dares must be captured on the player’s phone, the only ways to be eliminated are if you fail or bail, and snitches get stitches. Stay in the game and you not only get cash and glory but insta-fame as well.

    Initially Vee (Emma Roberts) isn’t in it for the fame or the money or even the thrill, she just wants to prove to herself and her friends that she’s not the shy wallflower forever sitting on the sidelines. It starts out easily enough – $100 to kiss a stranger in public for five seconds. The stranger turns out to be another player named Ian (Dave Franco), with whom the watchers decide to partner her up. They’re dared to drive to Manhattan, try on expensive clothes at Bergdorf’s and then make their way out of the store after their own clothes have been taken away by another player. It still seems like silly shenanigans, but the dares become increasingly dangerous as does Ian, whose past experience at playing the game may be detrimental to Vee’s safety.

    It’s not that Nerve is particularly bad, but its glowstick-coloured, po-faced ridiculousness is a bit too much to take at times. It may be a generational thing, but it’s also the simple fact that as a high-school thriller, it isn’t especially thrilling though there are tough to watch scenes such as a player lying down on tracks and waiting for the oncoming train to speed above him. Neither does it work as a variation on the Cinderella/She’s All That tale, wherein our heroine’s passivity blooms into confidence.

    However, it does present salient observations on how today’s generation interacts with technology and how they are both engaged and removed from it. The players may be in the game, but it is the watchers who control it. Anonymity, as directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) point out, emboldens you and deludes you into believing you are absolved of any responsibility. Peer pressure and the will of the mob are ever more prevalent and if you’re hungry for fame, then you’ll do what it takes. The finale demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Centuries may have passed and technology may have improved, but audiences get their reality shows one way or another.

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  • The brother of famed actor James Franco. The niece of Oscar winner Julia Roberts. Together they make an adorable screen duo in 2016’s Nerve (my latest review).

    Nerve has cinematography in the form of bright colors. It has extras in it with helmets and bandanas to hide their faces. It has a catchy techno soundtrack, and finally, it has a high-flown concept of social media. Truthfully, this movie feels like it’s ahead of its time. And based on its lukewarm box office reception, it also feels like a movie that we as an audience, aren’t ready for yet. At just over an hour and a half, Nerve is feverishly directed by two people (Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman). Watching it, I would’ve thought it was made to order by the members of electric mongered, Daft Punk.

    Now for reasons unknown, Nerve is dystopian without being set in the near future. Fast-paced, entertaining, and full of life, it still leaves you a bit frustrated. As I viewed it, I wanted to call for an all-out banning of smartphone, Skype, and Facebook applications. Yeah this film may be bona fide and happily neon. However, it gives off the whiff of America being in a sad state of affairs (primarily with twentysomethings). Young people these days have some sort of technological device with them at all times. Lets hope that it’s never used in the way it’s remorselessly portrayed here.

    Anyway, Nerve’s opening scene projects itself like the beginning of 2014’s Unfriended. Not that Unfriended is a bad movie but you feel relieved when Nerve veers away from just being a mouse clicking, email-minded endeavor.

    The story is as follows: High school senior Venus “Vee” Delmonico (played Emma Roberts), leads a ho-hum life with her protective mother in Staten Island, NY. She’s reluctant to attend college in California in fear that she’ll be away from said mom and some close friends. Not much of a risk taker and on a whim, “Vee” decides to partake in a truth or dare video game called Nerve. She can participate either as a “watcher” or a “player”. She chooses “player” and gets thrown into a world where other “watchers” give her challenges to accept for feasible amounts of money. Everything has to be captured on video for her to receive anonymous payments to her bank account. Examples would be trying on a $3500 dress, kissing a stranger for five seconds, hanging from a skyscraper scaffold with one arm, and walking across two high-rise buildings by way of a ladder. Venus eventually teams up with another “player” in Ian (played by Dave Franco). The two of them form a whimsical bond. I won’t give anything away only to let you know that Nerve the game sooner or later gets out of hand. Look out for a mild twist that occurs in Nerve’s ending (ha-ha). Also, look for a pivotal motorcycle riding sequence (with a blindfolded protagonist at the wheel) and a quasi-romantic subplot courtesy of Roberts and Franco. In jest, out of the fifty or so movies I’ve seen this year, I would definitely rank Nerve in the top fifteen.

    All in all, Nerve nearly has that trait of being a new classic. As its running time flies by, you almost sense that it lives in a sort of fantasy world as opposed to being rooted in forgone reality. Nerve’s only hiccups for me, are its sometimes choppy editing, its tendency to portray its characters as annoying tech-heads, and its thankless use of Juliette Lewis as the dorky mother to Emma’s “Vee”. Bottom line: I liked Nerve to the point where I’m gonna have to recommend it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen movie-wise and that gets points from me. With its look similar to 1995’s Strange Days and its representation of New York City as an icy, unsupervised underworld, Nerve does have verve. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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