Nerve is the film based on Jeanne Ryan’s novel of the same name. In it people take part in a game where watchers give them dares to complete for money in the hopes of reaching the final two. One of these dares leads to Venus (Emma Roberts) meeting another player called Ian (Dave Franco).
And this is a pretty cool concept. The idea of the dare game that escalates due to the complete anonymity of the watchers has a huge amount of potential. I just don’t think that this film really delivered on that. The tone for most of film just felt far too much like a teen movie. There is a big shift towards the final act of the movie where it becomes a much darker thriller, and the shift was clearly a deliberate move. But if the original tone had been close to the thriller then that first two thirds would have been more enjoyable, and that tone shift would have been far less jarring than it is. A horrible soundtrack of annoying teen pop music that I loathed also accompanies a lot of the film, and I have to say really detracted from the first couple of acts of this movie.
The two starts, Roberts and Franco, have always come across to me as pretty one-note actors, who normally do the same thing. Roberts normally plays a queen bee or Regina George type character, but I have to give her credit for breaking away from that here and making a pretty watchable and likeable lead. Franco on the other hand just plays Dave Franco, which is fine because you have to like Franco; he’s an extremely charismatic screen presence. However I would love to see him really stretch himself at some point. I did have some problems with some of the supporting characters. Sydney (Emily Meade) and Tommy (Miles Heizer) especially just felt like high school stereotypes. Also I wish we would get away from people in their mid to late 20s playing high school students, let’s get actors of actual high school age, it would help me buy it so much more.
Despite criticising the tone that directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman went for, I do have to praise them for some wonderfully directed sequences. There was one ladder stunt in particular that was brilliant, the direction on it really makes you feel as though you, as a viewer, are in that moment, and really makes it tense. However there are also times were we see things being shot through people’s phones, and this can make it so hard to follow, especially if people are running. Then it can just become a blurry mess that is really hard to follow.
The best thing about Nerve however was the fact that it allowed the filmmakers say something about modern society and technology. It raises the issue of how open social media has made us and how easily people are able to find information on us. It also touches on the anonymity of Internet users and how that makes them willing to do things that are far crueler than anything they would do in real life. Both of these are issues that affect modern life, and I’m glad we are seeing films tackle those issues. Although I would like to see it tackle the technology a little more realistically, as the technology suddenly gets ridiculous once Venus starts playing Nerve. For instance her laptop suddenly becomes touch screen, which it clearly wasn’t before. Stuff like that does annoy me because it’s so obvious that it does take you out of the film, especially in a movie about technology.
I feel like there is a really good film to be made from Nerve. It has a really interesting concept, a few great moments, and it relates to something that is a real issue in modern society. But the tone in the first part of the film didn’t work for me and the shift was too jarring.