REVIEW: Nerve

1 07 2017

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s “Nerve” instantly makes us aware that, for today’s high schoolers, life is not lived alongside a screen so much as it is lived inside one. Devices are not an embellishment to reality but rather a replacement for it altogether.

The story, adapted from Jeanne Ryan’s YA novel, fashions a new kind of social media frenzy for young people called – well – Nerve. In this game, participants can enter either as watchers observing the dares or as players performing them. Cash incentives encourage increasingly bananas stunts, which both groups are forbidden to report to law enforcement.

The player/watcher divide becomes an all too convenient dichotomy for passive/active, but the Nerve game is a bit more complicated than high school cliques. It’s more like bystanders and perpetrators as shown by the misadventures of Emma Roberts’ Vee, who uses the game as an escape for a debilitating family life after the death of her brother. She’s a person of good intentions egged on by a crowd of people whose motivations are not as pure.

Not unlike Joost and Schulman’s cultural landmark debut “Catfish,” the film starts off with promising, incisive commentary about what social media does to people … only to devolve into bizarre theatrics that veer wildly off-message. “Nerve” makes excellent points about how easy it is to manipulate us with personal information that we willingly provide, and that deserves more of a horror/thriller ending than just another banal action set piece. B- /