This film is like something Nicolas Winding Refn would make at a studio and for teenagers. Make of that what I will.
It starts with Vee (Emma Roberts, Scream Queens), who is like most of us in that she’s repressed and lives in a shell of comfort. She notices that a lot of people are involved with this app called Nerve, which dares people to do crazy things for cash and fame. Like with Pokémon Go or Tinder, she has to try it out.
Given that her first dare is to make out with a stranger for five seconds, you can only imagine they get less and less inhibitive. That stranger happens to be Ian (Dave Franco, Neighbors), who Vee learns is also playing Nerve. The “Watchers” like them together, and so the two are dared to go into the city on his motorbike. Watchers suggest the dares in real time, which is how the system works. Watchers and Players. Some of the dares are genuinely thrilling, and some of the stakes are genuinely life-or-death—even if the audience always feels like a Watcher.
I mentioned Nicolas Winding Refn for a reason, and it’s that the production for this film could have easily been mistaken for one of his own. There is a lot of synth scoring and neon framing compositions, and there’s just a sense of heightened reality to everything. This is unlike so much of the teen film market, and it’s all the better because of it. I feel like there was a real aesthetic they were aiming for, rather than a simple point-and-shoot.
The characters are relatable, and if not relatable, then real. Emma Roberts and Dave Franco are fantastic leads, the beating hearts of this lively film, and they’re given great material with which to work. There are times when this film is a real adrenaline rush, and they’re not far between each other.
Take me with you when you go. I’d love to see it again.
Nerve is nearing the end of its theatrical run. See it now.