Ahhh yes. Nerve. That surprisingly underrated hit movie about truth or dare, starring Dave Franco’s hot younger brother and the chick from Scream Queens. Pretty much.
Nerve quadrupled its $20 million budget with a solid $83.7 million at the box office, resonating through teen audiences. That being said, I don’t often see it talked about by film critics or media outlets as much as other films like Rogue One or La La Land, which is a shame, because it is very underrated.
Nerve sets itself up as a teen romance; Veronica ‘Vee’ Delmonico (Emma Roberts), is paired up with Ian (yup, just Ian. Dave Franco) after she joins Nerve by being totally humiliated by her supposed best friend. Nerve (the app) is essentially a social network combined with a truth or dare app where “Watchers pay to watch, Players play to win”. Watcher’s give players dares, and, upon a player completing a dare, they win a cash prize. As the dares get riskier, the cash prizes get bigger. So naturally, it’s as addictive as a vegas casino but as adrenaline inducing as skydiving.
Things get interesting and dramatic when Vee ends up creating competition between herself and her bestie, and her ‘best-friend’ Tommy finds out some suspicious stuff about Ian, and the plot slowly and masterfully begins to twist from there.
Nerve treads an interesting line; It appeals to us, (us being teens) by being wholly relatable. Everyone has played truth or dare with a group of friends at some point and it’s probably been one of the best (or worst) experiences of your childhood; You either learn a lot of weird stuff about your friends or you get to embarrass them. But that isn’t the only way Nerve is relatable; It hits the blind spot between its intense pumping techno and it’s charmingly innocent and dreamy selection of pop-EDM. It follows characters with serious backgrounds and almost cliché backstories whilst reminding us that they are just wild, young, free teens like the rest of us. On top of it all, it’s set in New York City, which is not only one of the most internationally relatable cities, but also definitely the most televised.
Nerve is also admittedly a little corny, with its overdramatically rushed climax, hilarious technobabble and a slightly disappointing safe ending. All the relationships between the characters are not terrible for a teen romance (RIP Tommy, you will never get out of the friendzone), however the flat backstories do make seem like an excuse to get all wishy-washy.
The unfortunate brilliance of Nerve is that it tries (and to an extent succeeds) to play two games. Treading the waterline of innocent teenhood, whilst hiding the serious message about internet anonymity and its consequences under the surface. If the movie had just been another wishy-washy teenage romance movie (i.e The Fault in our Stars), it probably wouldn’t have ended up so well. Likewise, had it followed the path of the techno-thriller, it probably would have flopped by being too alien and far-reaching. So it double dips, luring in the audience with it’s super-hip relatability and carefree romanticism, then guiding us down the intense plot and darker themes the writers wanted to express. It totally works, but given the limited runtime of the movie and it’s effort to keep it PG-13, it’s a little weak in the second department. The source material (a book by the same name) ventures more into the philosophy and ethics of Nerve, and I wished they had incorporated more of that into the film.
If Nerve ever gets a sequel, I hope it finds the courage to venture down the darker path.
Nerve deserves a 5.5/7.
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