Monday, July 25, 2016

'Nerve' review

Nerve is a dumb movie that seems to believe that it's very smart. There's really no other way to put it. This is a high-concept teen movie that seems to have the wrong goals in mind, and honestly, it continues a trend that reaches a crescendo with this strangely overdone thriller. After all, the recipe for these YA adaptations is pretty simple. Mix attractive co-stars, a healthy dose of angst, some sort of wacky dystopian scenario, and boom, you've got yourself a solid, reliable hit. Nerve has all of that in good measure, and for a decent chunk of the film, it actually works pretty well. The glossy, neon-soaked direction of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman provides some much-needed visual flair to an often drab genre, and I liked the chemistry between stars Emma Roberts and Dave Franco. Everything is going swimmingly- the story moves well, the action is occasionally thrilling, and there's a good deal of fun to be had. And then something happens. I can't even explain it. As the final act begins, Nerve just goes off the rails.

But before I take a deep dive into the most monumentally awful ending of the year, let's take a look at the basic plot of this thing. Nerve centers around Vee (Emma Roberts), a shy teenager who plays it safe all the time. She's smart, well-liked, and gets good grades, but she never takes any risks, and she doesn't even have the courage to stand up to her over-bearing mother (Juliette Lewis). While she's talking with friends one day, she's introduced to the latest internet phenomenon- a game called Nerve, which is basically a larger-scale version of truth or dare, just without the truth. Nerve has become hugely popular in New York city, and Vee's best friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), is one of the top players. When faced with the decision to either be a watcher or a player, Vee suddenly signs up to play the risky game.

It's a drastic change of pace for the careful and meticulous high school senior, and almost immediately, Vee brings a sense of hesitance to the game. But after a series of dares unites her with the mysteriously charming Ian (Dave Franco), Vee finds herself immersed in the world of Nerve. After years in the shadows, she finally has the chance to be a star. Her stock in Nerve rises by the minute and she quickly becomes one of the most popular stars in the game. But as the danger factor of the dares grows and the anonymous community of watchers continues to threaten their safety, Vee and Ian will have to fight for their lives in a battle against the fearsome world of the internet.

Now, this isn't necessarily a bad concept. In the age of the Pokemon Go, the game world of Nerve doesn't feel far off. The potential is there for a massive abuse of anonymity and the escalating craziness of the film isn't far-fetched. However, if a filmmaker is going to tackle this subject, it requires a level of subtlety and satire that this film just doesn't bring to the table. For the first two acts, Nerve seems content to be another passably breezy teen movie, with the typical complicated relationships and mildly exciting action beats. But then at some point down the line, the filmmakers decided that they needed to make a big social statement.

Basically, the third act of Nerve demolishes everything that came before it. And it's not like the film just slowly falls apart. No, it practically explodes in a fiery ball of flames right in front of our eyes. The ending of this movie is "Wow, I can't believe this is happening" bad. It's everything that you wouldn't want to do with this story and this concept. Not only does the final act of Nerve do away with any sense of character and plot development, it settles for a hilariously overdone climax that waves its finger at the internet age. It's unintentionally hysterical, and not only is it a total cop-out, but it also completely destroys the audience's suspension of disbelief. I can't say much more because of spoilers, but I'm fairly certain you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.

Watching the finale of Nerve is soul-crushing. It's so brutally stupid, so totally ham-fisted, such a jarring tonal shift from the rest of the film. And on top of that, you'll probably be picking apart plot holes in this one for days. None of it makes sense on a story level, or a character level, or even on a thematic level. Nerve is an okay movie up until the point that it practically hits the self-destruct button. It goes from goofy and playful to deadly serious and shockingly over-the-top, a move that left me totally dumbfounded. Even some of the most seasoned veterans of the YA genre will probably laugh this one off, a endlessly slick movie that is simply too absurd and too moronic for its own good.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C-                                             (5.3/10)

Image Credits: Lionsgate Films

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