The new wave of celebrities of the modern day make their millions from the comfort of their phones. The seductive nature of internet fame that has stemmed from this Facebook generation leaves many people seeking the adulation of others, quantified through popularity markers such as ‘views’ and ‘likes’ that have led us all to become a little bit more attention seeking. Spewed across the various social platforms are those attempting to grab the eye of the masses, individuals who have been accurately portrayed in this summer’s latest thriller Nerve, a film that follows young adults seduced by an adrenaline rush fueled by popularity. A cautionary tale for the youth of today.
The film follows Vee (Emma Roberts), an introvert teen who, other than dealing with the usual problems that befall someone of her age, has noting specifically unique about her. When her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) introduces her to a new thrill seeking game called ‘Nerve’ where participants are split between players and watchers, Vee attempts to break out of her sheltered monotony and gives a go at jumping from a watcher to a player, where viewers give them increasingly difficult dares to complete. With her first dare leading her into the company of the mysterious Ian (Dave Franco), the two quickly get caught up in the game and run a fine line between fame and failure that could have greater costs than they ever realised.
The social commentary of the piece focuses around our obsession with internet popularity, as well as various other problems that have stemmed from our increasing internet usage including anonymity, desenstisation to violence and quantifiable popularity, each of which is covered surprisingly well. Throughout most of the film this is done subtly with a touch of satire at points, but the important thing is that it interweaves it well into the story and thriller elements of the movie that makes it work as a feature. It’s only as you get towards the rickety third act that the commentary loses some of its subtlety when it becomes magnified by the cast who decide to monologue about it.
The third act in general doesn’t quite hit the same beats as the rest of the film which leaves a sour taste at its close. For the most part Nerve keeps you interested. There’s enough intrigue and mystery behind the game, as well as tense moments that keep you hooked, yet a few problems begin to appear when they try and wrap up everything in a nice little bow. There’s a lot of technological mumbo jumbo thrown around in the film but towards the end you get plenty of boffin moments where you just have to assume they know what they’re doing and it’s the right thing to do. Instead of countering the problems of the internet with some grounded reality, they go deeper into the technology rabbit hole that doesn’t have an impact that resonates with the film’s message.
As for the film’s narrative it’s fairly interesting. There’s some deeply thrilling moments that are equal part intense as they can be cringe inducing. It’s fun watching Dave Franco make a fool of himself singing karaoke, but watching someone walk across a ladder between two buildings is vomit inducing. Especially when that’s done on hand held camera footage that makes you queasy at the best of times.
It’s moments like that that perfectly sum up Nerve. It has plenty of good ideas, thrilling moments and surprisingly good performances, but the execution is often a little off. It’s unsurprising that the directors of Catfish have such an accurate eye for the power and effect of social media, but they’re still a few steps from honing their film-making skills. Nerve won’t win any awards on the production front, but it’s definitely a film that will get you thinking.