Brought to you from the makers of Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4 is not necessarily a line that would make most people rush into cinemas to see this one, but luckily the appeal is all in the plot. Vee (Emma Roberts) is about to graduate high-school, she has a crush on a boy she’s never spoken to and is too afraid to tell her mom she got into a great college because it would mean moving away, so when her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) tells her she’d never take a risk as big as playing the huge new dare game Nerve, she decides to prove her wrong. The dare starts with having to kiss a stranger, Ian (Dave Franco) and as the night goes on, things get more complicated and dangerous, Vee soon realises how little she knows about Nerve.
While Roberts may usually be seen playing the bossy, outgoing or confident type, this time around she plays it more quiet and conservative, which doesn’t seem to be too much of a challenge for the actress, although it is a slight challenge as an audience to find it believable that she’s playing a 17 year old, currently being 25 years of age. Franco on the other hand isn’t moving far from his comfort zone, with most of his IMDB credits following a similar pattern of characters (21 Jump Street, Now You See Me, Neighbors), but regardless neither of them particularly impress with this one. The acting feels wooden and forced, though the story itself is interesting the reactions are highly predictable and lacking a convincing quality. The chemistry between the two of them is there, but mostly due to the overt way it’s put into the story rather than any particularly strong connection between the two of them, it feels much too manufactured. The surprise of the film is Meade, although she is playing a predictable and stereotypical daddy-issues style promiscuous teen, she has one of the strongest moments of the film and does it justice. There is however a disappointing lack of screen time or decent dialogue for not only Juliette Lewis, who is capable of much more than being the worried mum, but Orange is the New Black stars Samira Wiley and Kimiko Glenn, while being included in the story sporadically, they are given fairly little to do and it feels like wasting talent.
The plot of the film is highly relevant and brings up questions about the dubious nature of morals in a world of anonymity, or lack there of in regards to technology, as well as the lengths some people will go to for 5 minutes in the spotlight. The film moves at a fairly good pace which is not a difficult task given its fairly short 96 minutes, although it could have been heightened by coming across even quicker to push the suspense and tension slightly further. There is not an abundance of impressive shots, it would be fairly expected for a film about adrenaline-fuelled dares to be full of crazy camera movements and first person perspective, as well as taking full advantage of the back drop of New York City, though there are some moments of the last, the rest is missing. There are scenes that do justice to the premise of the film and create the nail-biting moments that are vital, but the lapses in-between that rely on Roberts and Franco are less intriguing, the story could have easily been translated into darker territory and created a very decent thriller, rather than a summer film with rather cheesy romance mixed in with moments of suspense. A problem which is only exacerbated by the fact the villain, so to speak, of the film is effectively an app backed by thousands of faceless users.
The ironic coincidences of having the trailer for The Purge: Election Year shown before Nerve and that the directors have experience in horror is that they could have taken a page out of that play-book and put a little more fear into the audience to create a more sympathetic connection to the experiences of the characters, and make the situation feel much more threatening. The film does not come across as disappointing but it certainly feels as though the team behind it have taken a much safer route. Overall it seems like the film just hasn’t quite reached its potential, they’ve managed to make something entertaining but you can’t help but wonder what it could be in more capable hands? Yet surprisingly it is still worth a watch.