First Hit: I sat down in my seat with a bit of apprehension, and this all changed as soon as the film rolled, it was a blast.
This film could have easily been a bomb. But what kept it from being a dud was the explosion of characters, “watchers” and “players”.
The main character Vee (Emma Roberts) who is the beautiful girl, who doesn’t know her beauty and she hides in the background. She's a watcher and engaged with people but through her creative (although we don’t see much of it) side as a photographer.
Her BFF is Sydney (Emily Meade), a risk taking girl that does what she can for attention. Yes, she's a player and it is obvious that by playing "Nerve" she attempts to convince herself and others that she is not insecure.
"Nerve" is like the old "Truth or Dare" game but the difference is that there is no "truth" in "Nerve"; it is all "dare". It has been created anonymously by a group of hackers/programmers on the dark web, and it invites anyone to be a player or watcher. The more dares completed and the more complex dares a player attempts to "complete", the more money the player can win.
If the watcher’s like you, you win more money for completing the dare. Watchers get to watch you do the dare live on any device. Emma gets goaded to becoming a player by Sydney and because her fear is real and it puts her outside her comfort zone, she instantly becomes a favorite of watchers.
The watchers hook her up with Ian (Dave Franco) and together they take on the dares presented to them. One that touched me was riding a motorcycle together with the driver blind. It touched me only because I was in a passenger car in my late teens with the driver’s eyes were covered by a back seat passenger who shouted out driving commands. It only lasted about 2 minutes on a quiet, no traffic street, but it was a bit nerve-racking.
Anyway the contest to win the big prize becomes engaging for the watchers with Vee and Ian as a team, Sydney and Ty (Colson Baker AKA Machine Gun Kelly) as the other front runners. Many of the dares are difficult to watch, some are inventive, while others are a bit odd. The intenseness and playfulness of each dare was well shot and most of the dialogue fit the players generational sound and meaning. This film was fun.
Roberts was spot on perfect. Her growing into a player worked well as her inner strength came through. Meade was really strong as the girl craving for attention but, in the end, still had heart. Franco was great and it was nice to see him in a non-comedic role. He brought charm to his character. Baker was perfectly intense as was needed. Miles Heizer as Tommy, Vee’s friend, was charmingly protective of Vee reflecting his hidden love for her. Juliette Lewis as Roberts' mother was wonderful. Jessica Sharzer wrote a script that was spot-on to the time, place, and feel of the characters and their situations. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman did a wonderful job of directing this with intense and thoughtful scenes. They got great performances out of the actors and script.
Overall: This film surprised me with how good and fun it was to watch.