From the directors and writers of Catfish, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, Nerve is a mainly harmless summer confection extolling the virtues of technology. It would have ranked even higher, (and bore a resemblance to its forbearer), had it not disregarded its fundamental premise.
Not many movies are able to really fully embrace technology in a positive way, (there are but a few recent exceptions that spring to mind, and they probably spring to mind immediately). There is a good chance that Nerve would have joined these films but for a few issues (and these issues are major ones).
The first is that it abandons its embrace of a new augmented reality game (and one that seems to be way more fun that Pokémon Go). The initial player of Nerve (the game) is Sydney (Emily Meade), a doe-eyed teen exuding a form of confidence lacking in her friend Venus “Vee” (a game Emma Roberts), who exudes a sort of healthy presence even if totally unbelievable as the good girl. Her mother Nancy (Juliette Lewis) is a nurse, and despite being third billed, essentially plays a cipher.
The film (based on a teen novel) is a rush of colour and action, and its fairly deep dive into the excess and rush of online addiction is quite moving. But as Nerve progresses, it becomes clear that the game itself is the enemy, (and not Ty, played by Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker, whose most villanious trait is possessing a man bun..and being trapped by the game).
This is even without mentioning Dave Franco, who barely registers as Ian, whom Vee meets on a dare and who is revealed to be another player in the game (for two). Also appearing in the film are Kimiko Glenn and Samira Wiley of OITNB, though sadly not together and with neither one really making an impact, (it was like they were on a day trip out of Litchfield).
Despite all of these shortcomings, Nerve is a fun ride, improved by viewing among an engaged teen audience. The film as a whole is kind of flimsy and never truly engages, but when it is on, and explores the machinations of online addiction and truth or dare, it’s a fun ride and thoughtful way of portraying technology’s entrapment over teens. Also, New York City looks great and the action sequences are genuinely captivating.