Nerve

Review by Beth Perkin

Directed by

Ariel Schulman Henry Joost

Starring

Dave Franco Emma Roberts Juliette Lewis

Anticipation.

With two big names like Emma Roberts and Dave Franco this could be interesting...

Enjoyment.

A dumb but fun ride with a few genuine edge-of-the-seat moments.

In Retrospect.

A predictable ending that’s enough to kill your buzz.

The schoolyard game of Double Dare finally gets its own movie courtesy of Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

Are you a player or a watcher? Venus “Vee” Delmonico (Emma Roberts) is the latter, a nerdy high-schooler who hides behind her camera, snapping pictures of the dreamy captain of the football team instead of ever actually talking to him. It’s a character we’ve come across countless times: the quiet outsider who possesses some indefinable quality that elevates her above her peers – if only they could see it!

Enter Nerve, a high-stakes online game where “Players” must film and complete dares, suggested by an audience of “Watchers” for an impressive cash sum. It’s a game Vee has no interest in playing – that is, until her best friend humiliates her in front of said football captain. Suddenly, Vee, the perpetual wallflower, is signing up to Nerve as a “Player”, determined to prove everyone wrong and shed her passive skin.

Initially, the dares are pretty tame, But as the story progresses and the dares escalate in their danger, some are genuinely thrilling. One, which involves having to cross a ladder suspended between two adjacent apartment buildings, cleverly incorporates wobbly, hand-held camera phone footage – a lo-fi technique that Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are no strangers to. This modern re-working of an old fashioned movie stunt brings a hackneyed trope firmly back into the 21st century.

Aside from the thrill of the ladder scene, one of Nerve’s biggest spills is the casting of Juliette Lewis as Vee’s overworked mother. What is someone as wickedly talented as Lewis doing playing a bit-part in a second-rate teen movie? Frankly, this speaks volumes as to the criminal lack of good roles on offer for women over 40 in Hollywood.

But Nerve’s biggest problem is that, much like a confused kid in high school, it just isn’t sure what it wants to be. Part generic high school movie, part thriller, part Hunger Games riff-off, complete with half-baked aspirations to the neon rave aesthetic of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Nerve’s screenplay is far too heavy-handed to carry it all off. And this weak writing couldn’t be more evident in the film’s finale. Joost, Schulman and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer could have done something original here, but instead they cave to the sentimental pressures of the teen film genre. You might say they lost their nerve.

Published 10 Aug 2016

Tags: Ariel Schulman Dave Franco Emma Roberts Henry Joost

Anticipation.

With two big names like Emma Roberts and Dave Franco this could be interesting...

Enjoyment.

A dumb but fun ride with a few genuine edge-of-the-seat moments.

In Retrospect.

A predictable ending that’s enough to kill your buzz.

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