By Michael Kaye
The Internet is a wonderful resource. It's taken over at least a majority of the world, with everyone plugged into the various social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. But as great as the World Wide Web can be, it can also be extremely dangerous if you're not careful. Jeanne Ryan tapped into this in her novel Nerve, which was adapted into today's film, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, and starring Dave Franco and Emma Roberts.
Here's the story. A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to be manipulated by an anonymous community of "watchers."
I had little to no expectations for this film. I liked the trailer, thought it had an interesting premise, but its Wednesday release date had me a little worried. Well, it turns out I was worried over nothing, as this film is kind of excellent. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast was great. I really liked Dave Franco in this movie as Ian, a fellow Nerve player who teams up with Emma Roberts's Vee. Both of them have incredibly natural chemistry, which I guess runs in the family since Roberts previously worked with James Franco on Palo Alto. Speaking of which, this might be an unpopular opinion, but I think Dave Franco is a much better actor than his brother. I just wish he was given more opportunities to show his full potential. Also great in the film are Juliette Lewis as Vee's mom Nancy, Emily Meade and Miles Heizer as her friends Sydney and Tommy, and surprisingly Colson "Machine Gun Kelly" Baker as Ty.
This might be the best film directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman since Catfish. I'm not much of a fan of the Paranormal Activity franchise, but I blame that more on the writing and my waning interest in found footage horror films than on the directors specifically, so it's refreshing to see them break away from that and try something different. It's not too much of a departure though, as it stays pretty close to their apparent interest in exploring all the pros and cons of social media, while taking some beats from The Hunger Games and other assorted gladiatorial stories.
The screenplay, written by Jessica Sharzer, I found rather enjoyable. We'll talk later about some of the clichés that bugged me, but for now, what I liked the most was how the dialogue felt very natural. Popularity is something that everyone at one points strives for, and it's kind of fun to see how far these characters go to achieve their goal, even if it means risking their lives. It's hard to place this movie in one specific genre, as it can double as both a cautionary thriller and a coming of age story in terms of Vee and her friends' character arcs.
Finally, the soundtrack is awesome. Of course there's a lot of contemporary pop music, which seems to be the norm for these Young Adult movies, but then you get some classics like "You Got It" by Roy Orbison and "C.R.E.A.M." by Wu-Tang Clan. Any movie that recognizes the awesomeness that is Wu-Tang Clan is worth a lot in my book.
As far as negatives go, I don't have too many, save for a couple of clichés that, if not for these actors, would have seriously gotten on my nerves.
The first one happened during the party scene where Vee and Sydney had their big fight. That one bugged me because it combined "The Liar Revealed" and "The Breakup" into one, which really wasn't necessary since we all knew they'd reunite for act three anyway.
The other one immediately followed that scene, where it was revealed that Ian was dared to bring Vee to that party. This one actually wasn't as bad, since they didn't linger too much on it before Vee was captured and became a prisoner of the game.
Nerve was definitely a big surprise for me, given my lowered expectations. I was impressed by just how engaged I was with the story and the characters, and thought Joost and Schulman did an amazing job directing this one. Apparently they have another movie coming out in limited release this weekend called Viral, which takes them back to their horror roots. I would definitely recommend checking out Nerve this weekend, and if it's available near you, why not give Viral a try as well.
Now I'd like to hear what you guys have to say. Have you seen Nerve, and if so what did you think? Also, what are your favorite movies starring Dave Franco? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, which sees the return of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass to the Bourne franchise in Jason Bourne.