“Nerve” is “The Purge” For Youngsters ….. Or How Hollywood Found A Loophole To Convey Violence and Peer Pressure

By Scott Kurland
Film: Nervw
Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Machine Gun Kelly, and Juliette Lewis
Rated: PG-13
Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

Whether you like it or not, our society has gone from the brilliant literary age to the twitter-age. We all should have seen this coming. After all, It didn’t sprout up over night. It began in the 90's with the introduction of cellular phones and the internet, but it became a new beast altogether in the form of reality television, social media and now, finally, the blogosphere. YouTube, Vine, Instagram, and  Facebook are responsible for creating a new movement in entertainment and television. We no longer have television stars. We have YouTube sensations and winners of competition shows. This week’s film “Nerve” is a cautionary tale about becoming an overnight star and what it can really do to a person. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

“Nerve” is the story of Venus a.k.a “Vee” (Emma Roberts). Vee always plays it safe. She has an opportunity to attend art school in California, but she refuses go in order to keep her mother happy. She does everything her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) tells her to do because it makes Sydney happy. All Vee is doing with her life is sitting on the sidelines in order to make everyone happy but herself. This all changes when she decides to break free and start playing “Nerve,” an online game show that dares people to do dangerous stunts in exchange for a cash reward. On her journey, Vee partners up with Ian (Dave Franco), a mysterious player who might be the one to get Vee out of her shell. Will Vee survive the game?  Or will “Nerve” be her undoing?

  From the moment I saw the trailers, I knew I wanted to see this film. It wasn't because it looked good. Oh heavens, no. This film screamed "matinee mayhem" from the very beginning. I wanted to see this film for two reasons. One, I love Dave Franco. He’s proven to be a more bankable actor than his brother James. And two,  ever since is saw Emma Roberts in “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story” I found her endearing. Both Franco and Roberts do some decent acting in this film. Overall, their performances are the only thing that really sell “Nerve.” They have great chemistry and you’d believe it if they fell in love with one another.

At closer examination, this film was directed by the men behind “Paranormal Activity” and “Catfish”:  Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. “Nerve” is much like both of those aforementioned films. Like “Catfish”, “Nerve” is caught in the digital age. It's full of gimmicks like Skype video, readable text messages that appear on screen and, of course, a visible Spotify playlist where the audience gets to see how many stars she gave her favorite song.  I honestly don’t fault the film for implementing these tropes. In this age, all teenagers have the attention span of 25 seconds. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. 

The real problem I had with this film had very little to do with its message concerning the damaging effects of peer pressure, and more to do with the fact that the overall message was sugarcoated in glossy, shiny veneer of crap. It was surprising how dirty this PG-13 movie could get.When I was growing up, there was an R rating if you saw anything naked. Not only do we get to see bare ass in this film, but I’m pretty sure I saw some other questionable anatomy in a fast cut. There’s also a graphic amount of violence including a child falling to his death. So, how did they get away with all that in a PG-13 film?  I'll tell you exactly how they got away with it....it's because there’s no swearing. These directors are  crafty forkers (Note: that right there is an example of what they do.). This is a movie with a lot of fast talking.Your brain thinks it hears a swear, when it actually heard something else entirely. It’s the equivalent of Nickelodeon trying to make an MTV show.

 Want to know what the worst offense of all is? It's the fact that I didn’t hate this film. Shocking, I know. “Nerve” isn’t a bad film, the message of "careful what you wish for" is well executed. This film is like the 2016 version of “Mannequin” starring  Dave Franco as Andrew McCarthy and Emma Roberts as Kim Cattrall. I’m using “Mannequin” as an example because it’s a bad film that everyone seems to secretly like. That’s what “Nerve” is; a bad film that you can watch multiple times. I even took the trailer to “Nerve,” put it on mute, and played Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ and they synced up. It was eerie. Am I recommending this film? Of course not. You can’t recommend a guilty pleasure. You can acknowledge it’s merit, but you cannot tell people to see it. “Nerve” is a bizarre LSD induced fever-dream that you’d watch whenever it’s on TV, but never admit that you liked it. Save your money and rent “Nerve”.

scott kurlandComment