"Nerve" is based on a 2012 novel by Jeanne Ryan. And that makes perfect sense. There's a heroine at the center of a Hunger Games-esque, high-tech reality game called Nerve, which is, essentially, an extreme version of Truth or Dare, with teen and 20-year-old contestants tackling various challenges in hopes of winning cash, gaining followers and becoming internet celebrities. However, Nerve is also the ultimate game of "Press Your Luck", with the Whammy being Death. As the dollar amounts increase, the dares get more and more dangerous.
The concept is intriguing, but as the movie unfolds, it’s impossible not to think how illogical it all is. No one is allowed to tell the Police about Nerve or else they're considered a snitch, which has its own set of consequences. Nerve has supposedly gone on for years, with tens of thousands of "Watchers" and "Players" across the country, and during that time, no one in authority OF ANY KIND has found-out about the game? That’s simply ridiculous.
Plus, practically every high school and college student (along with some adults bored at work) watches Nerve on their device of choice - basically doing NOTHING ELSE with their lives - and yet no one on any of the OTHER Social Media Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat are talking about it? We all know - in the real world - there are no secrets online.
Those are big flaws when it comes to the Nerve game. And there are just as many problems with "Nerve" the movie. Emma Roberts plays Vee, a high school senior who’s looking to go to college at CalArts, though her mom (played by Juliette Lewis) wants her to stay home. Vee's best friend, the "ambitious" Sydney, is really into Nerve, hoping to earn a lot of money and become “insta-famous”.Accused of being boring, Vee decides to try Nerve, and she’s quickly teamed-up with motorcycle-riding fellow player Ian (Dave Franco). They take to the streets of New York City, executing the “dares” they’re presented with, which start innocent and quickly become life-threatening.
"Nerve" does give equal time to exploring the three side effects of the game: the impact on the players, the bystanders who proudly record the action on their phones, and those who think they're all absolutely insane. With the lengthiest PG-13 MPAA rating explanation of any movie this year, the title should've been "Nerve - or Kids: Don't Try This At Home".
Roberts and Franco do make a cute couple. And there are some minor elements that work. During a scene in which Vee is recording herself trying on a flashy, $4,000 green dress in a department store changing room, comments from Watchers appear on the side of the screen. Some complement or criticize the dress, others do the same about Vee's body in offensive and improper ways. The scene sums-up today's Social Media behavior to a tee. And the growing tension between Vee and Sydney doesn't feel forced.
But, while "Nerve" is the most "Modern" movie of 2016 (filled with tech, pop music, and flashy graphics), it isn't suspenseful enough to be exciting nor groundbreaking enough to be thought-provoking. The lessons the film is supposed to teach us, presented blatantly in a few climactic speeches, are obvious and pretty corny.