Nerve: Seductive Techno Thriller Starring Dave Franco and Emma Roberts

nerve_posterIn the aptly titled Nerve, based on the 2012 young-adult novel by Jeanne Ryan, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) make the most out of their timely suspenseful set-up–the pressures under which teenagers live in the new techno-cyber world.

Our grade: B

Emma Roberts, who continues to impress as an actress, plays Vee, a shy, uncertain, extremely likable Staten Island high-school senior, who gets frustrated when her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) looks down on her and calls her “merely a watcher.”




Under peer pressure, to prove that she is cool and “with it,” Vee gets the latest app and signs up to play Nerve, the game that all her friends are obsessed with. This means she must carry out a series of dares—it’s like Truth or Dare, minus the truth.  First task is relatively safe, to kiss a handsome stranger, Ian (Dave Franco), who’s reading Virginia Woolf in a diner.

nerve_5_robertsIan turns out to be a fellow contestant, and over the course of one night, the couple become caught up in a series of risky challenges, all over Manhattan. Stunts are performed, like getting a green-sequined dress in Bergdorf Goodman. (see photo). As a result, Vee becomes “insta-famous.” At first, the tasks are easy and silly, but then they get darker, more dangerous, and even life-threatening (“motorbike blindfolded”).



The film’s visual style, defined by lurid crayon-colored lights and restless, jittery camerawork, and the energetic soundtrack are meant to compliment the games, which go from mild to wild, and the ambience, which increasingly gets unsettling and disturbing.

nerve_7_roberts_francoThe film is meant as a cautionary tale of all the dangers and pitfalls that are inherent in our increasingly digital and virtual world, our obsession with the new social media like Facebook and Instagram. But the narrative is not too deep in exploring these issues, and the protagonists are too generic for us to get seriously involved in the proceedings.

Despite shortcomings, the film has many merits.  Both appealing and relatable, Roberts and Franco show strong chemistry as the central romantic couple. Emily Meade is enjoyable as the slutty-best-friend, but Juliette Lewis is again wasted playing the cliché part of the over-anxious mother.

nerve_8_roberts_francoA zeitgeist suspenser, Nerve reflects the dominance of the new technologies and social media, which should appeal to teenagers and college students.  I will not be surprised if it also serves as a date movie.












Commercial Prospects

Nerve opened to a solid $1. 1 million on Tuesday night from 1,700 locations.  Lionsgate, the studio behind the $20 million cautionary tale about the dangers of cyber gaming, will expand the film to 2,538 theaters on Wednesday.

Nerve is expected to generate between $12 million to $15 million over its first five days in theaters, a healthy start given its low budget.

Reviews have been respectable, with critics handing Nerve a 68% “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes.

Aimed at younger female moviegoers, Nerve opens in a competitive weekend, facing off against two new wide releases, Universal’s Jason Bourne, which is getting mixed to negative reviews, and STX Entertainment’s ensemble driven Bad Moms, as well as the second weekend of Star Trek Beyond.