ARE YOU A WATCHER OR A PLAYER?
With the rise of the internet and more personal usage of the world wide web, many have turned to playing online games. Whether a leisure player or hardcore gamer, the amount of online users that play games over the internet is unprecedented. With a vary of games at an average’s person fingertip (be it tablet, mobile phone, laptop, or desktop), many game developing companies have posted their games online, jostling for a person’s attention in playing their product. As one would expect, these game are usually addictive from simple “finger swiping” or “button clicking” games to heavily immersive MMORPG amongst many others. So suffice to say that there’s endless supply of online games out there (with new ones coming out regularly), but, just any addiction, there are dangerous to it whether through over indulging in personal usage or through its “online” life. Now Lionsgate and directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman bring online gaming “truth or dare” mischief to the big screen with the film Nerve. Should you be a watcher (or player) and watch this movie or should this online gaming movie be unplugged?
Venus, nicknamed Vee (Emma Roberts) is a high school Staten Island teen with dreams of attending a respected art school in California, but can’t break the news to her single mother, Nancy (Juliette Lewis), who is still shaken from the recent death of her son, Venus’s brother. As an amateur photographer, Vee’s friend Sydney (Emily Meade) invites led her to the game Nerve, an online game that monetarily rewards its players for completing dares, amassing “watchers” who make or break contestant popularity. Watching Sydney play the game and looking to shake up her life, Vee joins Nerve as a “player”, through friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) immediately into the game with challenges. Meeting fellow Nerve player Ian (Dave Franco) during her first dare, Vee finds excitement with the stranger, quickly pulled into a gamming partnership when Nerve’s watchers demand they stay together. With New York City as the gaming world and embarking on series of increasingly challenges that are meant with lucrative rewards, the pair develop a chemistry, with Vee finding the male interest she’s always wanted, while friend Sydney grows panicked, trying to protect her standing in the Nerve community. However, Vee soon discovers that there’s more to this online game that meets the eye.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Like many out there, I do play online games (i.e. simple ones like Candy Crush Saga or Pokémon GO). I am always leer about playing online game and about personal info security, which is why I usually create “dummy” email account for signing up. So, in short, I do partake in online games, but I’m not a hardcore gamer. As for the movie, I remember seeing the trailer for Nerve and (quite frankly) wasn’t impressed with it, feeling like it was speaking to the generation ahead of me and just another “teen” angst feature film. Thus, I didn’t give the movie that much credence and wasn’t my top choice movie to see, choosing other feature films to watch and review (i.e. Jason Bourne and Bad Moms). However, I had free time on one of my day’s off and decided to check the movie out at my local theater. What did I think of it? Well, while it has a good premise, Nerve ends up being such as ambiguous as its online game. It plays with nifty ideas, but pulls too much from other movies and genres to clearly define itself.
Based on the 2012 book of the same name (by author Jeanne Ryan), Nerve is directed by the duo directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The pair directed 2010’s Catfish, a documentary film that offered the multi-faced layer of deception to socializing on the internet. With that knowledge in mind, Joost and Schulman build on that idea slightly, utilizing the millennial generation and their fascination with the internet, smartphones, and obsessive nature of online gaming. The actual premise of Nerve is quite playful, with an intriguing setup for Vee to undergo via a series of challenges that become aggressively harder. In truth, there’s a message (a cautionary tale) within Nerve’s cinematic display, surrendering one’s own personal info for “the love of game” entertainment and the cost of sharing that info on the world wide web (an endless array of facades within the internet’s servers and of faceless people that hide behind their own screen names). So, for what it’s worth, Nerve does bring a thoughtful provoking understanding (albeit a bit heightened in the dramatics) to sharing / playing on the internet. Something to think about when a new app game requires your social media info to play.
In terms of presentation, Joost and Schulman give Nerve a glossy look, using the metropolitan urban city life of New York City as the movie’s playground as characters navigate its streets throughout the night. Camera angles and cinematography are nothing incredibly spectacular, but they do offer a pretty slick presentation. The film’s soundtrack is pretty good, infusing techno-ish pop song throughout the feature.
Unfortunately, while the premise and its first act start out strong with an intriguing idea / concept, Nerve quickly loses its steam after that. Again, while its cool concept, it’s predicated on the belief social media and online usage via phones with the millennial generation. Which causes the film to be more narrow-minded to its target viewing audiences. This is not a problem, but then the film has to stand above its peers and Nerve doesn’t, feeling, at the very least, generic in its storytelling and subplots. The movie also riffs too much on other similar movies, taking cues from David Fincher’s The Game, The Hunger Games movies, and others like it. In doing so, Nerve looks its originality and basically becomes carbon copies of certain elements from other films (i.e. people watching the events unfold and cheering for the favorite district / tribute…I’m sorry I mean player). Then the film gets further bogged down with teen soap opera, with Joost and Schulman carving out time during the heightened events to water down the movie with moments of Vee and Sydney’s friendship on the verge of exploding. In amidst a night of several dangerous online “dare” challenges, who has the time to stop and ponder on friendship, jealous, and self-value? Apparently, the teens in Nerve do. The third act of the movie also suffers with hurried and contrived resolution that, again is a good idea, but seems rushed and doesn’t follow through in its execution. Lastly, there are also a couple of minor plot threads that are fully explored and are left dangling by the time the movie’s end credits begin to roll.
Then there’s the “Nerve” game itself, which has several logical errors along the way. For starters, the game is supposed to be kept a secret (one of the game’s rules), but it seems odd to see (in the movie) a swarm of people with their phones out recording events and reacting (in unison) to what’s happening in front of them or on their screen. And the authorities (in a heavily populated city such as New York City), don’t know about this or find this suspicious? Just to turn a blind eye just for the sake of the game? Come on, man! Even in a movie world, that’s a bit hard to swallow.
The cast of Nerve is small, with a few recognizable stars here and there, but all the characters are pretty much standard / generic, making only handful that stand out. Emma Roberts is, of course, the lead role as Venus (or Vee). Roberts, known for her roles in American Horror Story and Scream Queens, handles her character well, giving Vee enough naive / determination spirit throughout the movie that doesn’t feel over-the-top. I liked her in this role. Likewise, with Dave Franco’s character of Ian. Franco, famous for his roles in 21 Jump Street and Now You See Me, has a likeable charm and does so with Ian, making a good foil for Robert’s Vee. Besides those two, Nerve’s supporting players are, more or less, flat characters that serve the purpose of classical stereotypes. This includes Emily Meade as Vee’s popular and self-centered friend Sydney, Juliette Lewis as Vee’s concerning single mother Nancy, Miles Heizer as Vee’s “web tech” friend Tommy, and Richard Colosn Baker (stage name Machine Gun Kelly) as Ty, a Nerve game player, who’s out to win the game for his own.
Are you a watcher or a player?” is the fundamental question asked in the movie Nerve. Duo directors Joost and Schulman create a strong premise of a film with plenty of millennial generation fun with Nerve online gaming world as well as presenting the film with slick presentation, including its soundtrack. Unfortunately, the movie falters towards the second half (the second and third act of the feature) by getting bogged down with too much teen YA melodrama, logistical issues of the “game” itself, a contrive ending, and a few minor plot holes along the way. Personally, it was an okay movie. It started strong and had glimpse of greatness, but kind of got lost a bit in its ideas. I would say that this movie is an “iffy choice” at best or maybe just as a “rental”, but the millennial generation might find some interest in this movie that riffs on their generation. Nerve might have been based on a book, but, while the story’s concept is solid and is a somewhat of a cautionary tale of online gaming and its anonymity / submission of personal info for entertainment, the feature bits off more than it can chew and comes up short. Just like the game itself, Nerve is an illusive enigma that immediately gets your attention, but slowly becomes something else.
3.0 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice / Rent It)
Released On: July 26th, 2016
Reviewed On: August 10th, 2016
Nerve is rated PG-13 for thematic material involving dangerous and risky behavior, some sexual content, language, drug content, drinking and nudity-all involving teens