Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nerve: Movie Review

A gripping game of dare gets a little out of hand.
The premise of Nerve could have gone very wrong very quickly. But it doesn't matter that the game isn't real because the characters are real and very well established. Very swiftly the audience is immersed in this relatable but still exciting teenage world that definitely fits the movie. That's the first two acts. The third act bites off more than it can chew and attempts to undo the better elements already established. But at least it's still fun and interesting. 2016

Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Screenplay by: Jessica Sharzer
Based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan

Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco

It starts with Emma Roberts as high school senior Vee – and this is important because if it started with the game, it would be a distinctly worse movie. Vee is smart, accomplished, relatively ambitious, friendly and shy. She has her close friends, and her mother, but she misses her recently deceased brother. There’s also definitely an element of her unable to get out of her own shell, she has an hilariously obsessive crush on a boy at her school, and now she’s preparing for university but still has to decide which one.

I have been a fan of Emma Roberts since her turn as teen detective Nancy Drew. She is still winningly charming, but in particular, was able to ground Vee into a very relatable and sympathetic place in reality. I was impressed with how well the movie created a relatable and real world that these teens live in. From real teen speak to basic human emotions, these characters were definitely teenagers from today’s world (as opposed to some made-up movie world which I was fearing).

Now it’s time for the game. Vee’s significantly more adventurous best friend Sydney has joined an online/real-life game of truth or dare, without the truth. Strangers on the internet will pay you to complete increasingly more dangerous dares. Nothing about that sounds sketchy at all, especially the part where you’re told you can never go to the police. Snitches get stitches.
Ian (Dave Franco) and Vee (Emma Roberts) in NERVE,
an Entertainment One release, Photo credit: Niko Tavernise
I’ll spare you the details which are quite enjoyable, but Vee of course plays the game herself. The great part of the second act of the movie was the building up of the game. The introduction of Dave Franco – who is now not just a comedic star, but can ably lead a teen drama/action film; the initial dares which aren’t particularly dangerous or risky, but cute, humourous and entertaining; the build-up in the dares which ups the ante and even better ups the entertaining quotient. While it’s easy to guess where the film is going in these early/middle scenes, they are still quite enjoyable. During one blind-folded drive through the streets of New York City on a motorbike, I had my fists wrapped around imaginary handle bars and brakes trying to lead them to safety. And I wasn’t the only one.

The bulk of the movie are the increasingly risky dares and how Vee responds to them. She is the protagonist and the film does a good job exploring how to expand her world. I enjoyed the dares when they were just not-a-good-idea risky, or silly risky, they were still entertaining when they were dangerous risky, or especially this-won’t-end-well risky, but then they turned into illegal, which I don’t care to classify as risky anymore since it’s just plain stupid and anyone with half a brain would stop playing a game where strangers on the internet just give them money.

The film wanted to make a point about the selfishness of society and some grand statement how we’re all being turned into zombies desperate for the next jolt of adrenaline that we can get from our phones. And that is where it lost its way. This film is just not big enough (or even good enough, even though it is quite good in its own way) for that kind of grandiose superiority.

Nerve should have been a simpler teen comedy/drama/action adventure movie exploring the real motivations of how our protagonists have to grow into themselves, all put together with entertaining dare sequences. Because when that’s all the film was, it was fun, captivating, charming and thrilling. The resolution just didn’t fit.