There are times when I like researching a movie before I sit down to watch, when I enjoy knowing as much as possible about the film I’m about to spend the next couple of hours with; not so much because I need to know if it’s going to be a waste of time – let’s face it, I waste a LOT of time watching random crap – but because it’s a good way to adjust my expectations.
And then there are others when I don’t really feel like spending a good half hour on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes or YouTube. Part of it is due to plain ol’ laziness; the other part is simply because the two-line summary is enough to pique my interest, or, at the very least, my curiosity.
Such was the case with Nerve. I had no expectations going in, except maybe for a fairly decent adventure thriller.
And that’s exactly what I got. It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t half bad, either.
The premise of the movie is pretty straight forward: it’s basically an app-based game of increasingly dangerous dares, formulated by the community of “watchers” who decide what the players’ next dares will be. A shy teenage girl who, up until she decided to join the ‘Nerve’ game, basically played second fiddle to her popular, outgoing best friend, teams up with another player and, as their popularity and infamy blows up, so do the challenges posed by the watchers who run the game.
If you want to be nit-picky about it, and God knows I always do, the first troublesome plot point is the casting of the two girls: Emma Roberts is gorgeous – far more so than her co-star playing Sydney – and yet she’s the one in Sydney’s shadow. What’s even less believable is that her crush J.P., whose hotness is frankly questionable, dismisses her as not being ‘his type’. Um, no. She’s waaay out of that guy’s league.
Also, can we talk about her name? Venus Delmonico? Really? Sigh.
As for Dave Franco, I used to think of him as just the slightly less douchey, less squinty Franco brother but I gotta admit, whatever charm I don’t see in James, I can actually see in his younger sibling. His character, Ian, and Roberts actually have decent chemistry together, a fact that doesn’t escape the ‘watchers’, who seem to want those two to team up.
The dares start out pretty tame – kiss a stranger, try on a dress – and escalate to some very dangerous challenges, but there’s enough plot and character development to justify why an introvert like Vee would agree to do such stupid things as ride with Ian as he tried to reach 60 mph blindfolded or walk across a ladder balanced on the windowsills of two neighboring apartment buildings.
As the game progresses, so does the romance between those two, who actually make a great pair, until they advance to the finals. Not to spoil anything here, but the actual final dare is a bit of a stretch, to put it mildly. However, the little twist at the end makes up for the absurdity of the final challenge, not because it was really unpredictable – it wasn’t – but because that’s how Hollywood teen thrillers are supposed to end.
All in all, it was an enjoyable experience that took the premise of ‘Would You Rather‘, did away with the horror aspect, and married it with the trendy viewpoint of look how the younger generation lives through their phones. Is it supposed to be a critique on the voyeur culture that would rather pose for a selfie in front of a burning building rather than try and help put the fire out? Possibly, but I hope that wasn’t the case. The story is too far-fetched to pass as a cautionary tale, and, at the end of the day, trying to extract any deep moral out of a fun movie sucks all the enjoyment out of it.