Emma Roberts and Dave Franco (James Franco’s equally fit and nearly identical younger brother) become the center of the next gen’s universe when a popular game leads them to take on extreme challenges together.
Roberts plays Venus “Vee” Delmonico, an introverted high school senior and aspiring photographer who wants to go to art school but can’t afford it. Graduating high school means she’ll be older than her older brother, who died before he went off to college.
Vee’s great relationship with her brother isn’t really relevant, but their contrasting personalities are. Her personality couldn’t be more different than her brother’s outgoing “yes man” attitude. Vee’s extroverted and vulgar best friend continuously reminds her of this by pulling stunts like mooning the whole school as a dare for Nerve and soon after embarrassing Vee.
People can sign up for Nerve as either players or watchers, like Twitch. Watchers dare the players to do funny and dangerous activities, from kissing random people to laying on train tracks as a train passes over them. Players can complete them for bank deposits, bail and lose all of the money they’ve won, or fail — this usually means they seriously injured themselves. If players call the cops, though, the game (and life) is over for them.
Things change for Vee when a football player somehow manages to break her heart — I say “somehow” because she only had enough nerve to take photos of him for the school’s yearbook. That’s okay though, because then she takes her social media-crazed friend’s advice, joins Nerve as a player and meets Ian (Franco) during her first dare. She reminds me of people who hit the gym and dye their hair to make their past disappear, but on a more extreme level.
Ian of course has a deep dark secret, but he’s not as badass as he seems. It has to do with the game, which seems new but apparently came out over a year ago which is when Ian’s secret emerged. If you decide to hit the theaters, remember what the sketchy game says at the beginning: “Snitches get stitches.”
I find it somewhat difficult to trust people with my life the same day I meet them, but Vee seems to be just as naive as the rest of the partying teenagers in her life. Vee quickly falls in love with Ian, but it’s hard to tell if their relationship is based on anything more than a dare.
The innumerable dares — made necessary by the game’s design — caused my heart to race until the end, when we see what the internet can lead people to do. These dares also give the movie too many directions to follow. Is she doing this to get money for college? Should we care about Ian? Is she going to die? Why does her mom trust teenagers so much?
Things get pretty weird when the watchers start appearing in Halloween costumes, an allusion to how society hides behind social media profiles. This makes it very obvious that Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are responsible for directing this movie. They also directed “Cat Fish” and “Paranormal Activity 3” together, the first of which plays off this theme.
If you need an adrenaline rush or want to relive middle school drama, go watch it. If you’re just bored, dare yourself to buy next semester’s books and watch the movie when you need a study break in the fall. This movie would have been much better if the characters were a few years older. As it stands, it’s just another movie you can watch with your family.
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