Nerve [FILM REVIEW]
You should be used to social commentary by now, it comes from every direction; TV, film, the media, online, offline, in the streets, in our homes – it’s unavoidable. Nerve falls in to this category, although fairly loosely – it’s an action film pushed as social commentary, and with this in mind the message is fairly weak. Though the film itself is fairly strong.
The story is nothing new – sensible, hardworking teen who always plays safe is semi-mocked by adventurous friend, and so decides to come out of her shell. It’s a story as old as time, although it’s spun in a unique way – rather than go out partying, or whatever it is that teens in films do to prove they’re adventurous and not boring, in Nerve you play a game. The game being Nerve itself.
It’s essentially just dares, but for money, and you have to stream yourself doing them in order to succeed. The game being that at the end of 24 hours, the person with the most watchers wins. A new take on an old concept, playing into people’s (supposed) new need – the need to be recognised and appreciated online. I’ll stop here and give the film some credit – it’s nice to see a film not just talking about likes, which is so easy to do. This film goes a little deeper, into the more evolved online world, hitting the YouTube/Twitch side of things. It’s refreshing to know that older, less tech savvy people in Hollywood know that social media isn’t just Facebook.
What really makes this film worth watching is the dares themselves. They start out nice and simple, kiss a stranger for five seconds. Before you know it, it’s driving 60pmh on a motorbike through downtown New York with a blindfold on, and people voting on whether to shoot someone or not. I won’t go into the dares too much, far too many potential spoilers, but they provide the most watchable moment of the film – which you’d really hope! The dares also bring together our two main characters, Vee and Ian. This is where the film becomes quite flat.
Played by Emma Roberts and Dave Franco respectively, Vee and Ian are fine as characters. As mentioned earlier, Vee is somewhat of a cliché, and Ian is too. He’s the mysterious stranger, the tall dark and handsome man who isn’t all that he seems. Being clichés doesn’t ruin these characters, not by a long shot, it just means you don’t really develop too strong an interest in them. What’s really annoying is their relationship.
To put it simply, there’s no chemistry. It’s not believable. They’re brought together by circumstance, by both playing the same game, and kept together because the watchers like them, and thus they’re given dares to do together (by whom, no one really knows. At no point in the film is it clear who gives the dares out – it may be the watchers, but it’s anyone’s guess). But they’re a terrible couple. If this wasn’t a film, and was a documentary, or people you knew in real life, you’d be dying for them to break up. They’re clichés separately, and together they’re just one big cliché. That’s one thing that really comes close to ruining this film – the tropes. This film feels like a tick box exercise, the writers laid all the possible clichés out in front of themselves, and proceeded to force in as many as possible. And much to our chagrin, they succeeded.
The rest of the cast is fine, perfectly non-descript. You’ll recognise a couple of them if you watch Orange is the New Black, and Juliette Lewis is there for some reason, but other than that they’re filler. You get the feeling if this film could work with just Roberts and Franco, the producers would have made it so, just to force us to focus even harder on their relationship. And to be honest, it wouldn’t change the film too much if it was just the two of them.
The end of the film finds us with our first real piece of social commentary – and it goes from 0-100 real fast. Message and delivery of aside, I liked the ending – it wasn’t what I saw coming, which was a nice surprise compared to the rest of the film. With the message in mind though, it’s terrible. As we were leaving my girlfriend asked me what I thought, and I could only respond with “have you ever seen an anti-smoking message so bad it made you want to smoke out of spite?” That’s what the delivery of the message behind this film did to me. Not the film itself, as it was perfectly ok, or the message itself, as its right, but the delivery. Like your gran handing you 20p to buy a Freddo, even though they cost about £10 now, it’s out of touch. And painful for it.
But don’t let this put you off – it’s a perfectly ok film. If you’re expecting anything ground breaking you’ll be disappointed, but if you’re happy to just sit back, turn your brain off and watch attractive people do silly things, then go see it. If you see it or you don’t, you won’t win or lose either way.