Film review: Nerve – Catfish directors explore mob mentality in far-fetched techno thriller
Digital popularity and paranoia are mixed with adrenaline-inducing stunts in this tale of internet dares that will please younger viewers and turn off everyone else
Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are apt choices to helm this slick online teen thriller. Back in 2010 they kick-started their careers with Catfish – a documentary about the fakery of internet friendships. Based on the 2012 novel by Jeanne Ryan, Nerve centres on other pertinent issues – the collective anonymity that the web offers and the way it encourages a mob mentality.
Emma Roberts plays shy high school senior Vee, who comes out of her shell when she starts playing Nerve, an online “dare” game that sees “watchers” stake real money to goad “players” on into doing more and more outlandish things. Soon, after teaming up with hunky fellow participant Ian (Dave Franco), Vee’s stealing designer dresses, stunt riding and worse, while competing against her needy best friend Sydney (Emily Meade).
While the film touches on issues of digital popularity and paranoia, it is primarily designed to pump up the adrenaline. There’s a thrilling vertigo-inducing scene where Vee crosses a ladder strung between two apartment windows high up. But for those past their adolescent years, the tears, tantrums and teenage domestics get a little wearing. The slick Franco and Roberts are fine, though neither actor inspires wonder.
The visuals are neatly packaged, and Joost and Schulman manage to weld this hi-tech story into one about the fragility of pubescent friendships and that very Hollywood theme of being true to yourself. In truth, this far-fetched, increasingly daft tale will thrill younger moviegoers more than those who still struggle to boot up their computer.
Nerve opens on September 1
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