Bail Out of This One
With how easily accessible the internet has become, social media and internet celebrity are everywhere. All one has to do is turn on their cell phones and they can instantly become connected, viewing other people or filming themselves doing just about anything for the whole world to see. This is the basis of Nerve, based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan.
Set in New York City, the film centers on Venus “Vee” Delmonico (Emma Roberts), a high school senior From Staten Island. As her mother is still grieving the loss of Vee’s older brother, she resists telling her that she plans to leave for college, having been accepted into the California Institute of the Arts.
Vee is the awkward friend in her group, with one of her best friends Sydney (Emily Meade) being the exciting friend who’s always looking to try something new. Sydney has become popular in an online reality game called nerve, where players enlist as “Players” or they play to watch as “Watchers”. Players are given dares from the watchers, which they can decline (and bail out of the game) or accept (in which case they are give a set time to complete the dare).
The game collects data from the players various social media and bank accounts and explains to them the three rules: contestants must record all dares on their cell phone, if they bail out they lose any money they gained and they must not report the existence of the game to Law enforcement. The movie wants you to believe that no one outside of the players and watchers knows of the game’s existence, which anyone who has ever been on the internet can tell you is not how the internet works. One doesn’t have to go on the dark web to know it exists.
With Vee refusing to talk her crush J.P, Sydney decides to talk to him on her behalf despite being told not too. Being rejected and furious at Sydney, Vee decides to prove her friends wrong about her boring nature and signs up for Nerve as a player. At this point as the film should begin to pick up steam, it quickly becomes a boring waste of an otherwise interesting concept.
Vee’s first dare is to Kiss a strange for 5 seconds. She decides to Kiss Ian (Dave Franco) after she sees him in a restaurant reading her favorite book. Ian reveals that he was given the book, and that he too is a nerve player. Liking the pair of them together, the watchers decide to pair them up and send them on dare together.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the pair quickly become two of the most popular players of the game, which begins to upset Sydney. The film can’t even seem to decide whether Sydney is mad that her friend is more popular than she is or if she’s just worried that Vee is taking her challenge to be more adventurous too far.
The film continuously has hard time justifying any of the characters actions other than needing to keep the plot going. Every time Vee debates bailing out of the game, she is almost immediately convinced to continue on by Ian, for absolutely no reason. If a character has the opportunity to get help, they simply don’t, even a police officer just refuses to help.
Rushing to an anticlimactic ending, nerve unfortunately never plays it’s own game, going for the easy route (including fart gags) instead of being the intriguing social commentary on today’s youth culture which it could have been.
What begins as an interesting and relevant idea about the world we’re now living in, and what it easily could become, Nerve quickly becomes a disappointing wreck. It fails to live up to it’s premise, putting its uninteresting and indecisive characters into boring situations. It even manages to make New York City look boring.
4/10 – Be a “Watcher”, just not of this movie