If you’re not playing “Pokemon Go,” you know someone who is. Attached to their smart phones, people are running around trying to catch random creatures in random locations. The new film, Nerve, ups the “Pokemon Go” ante. It’s like a high stakes game of Truth of Dare, without the truth part. This is a film where the best Nerve players become instant celebrities. In an age where anyone with a lot of YouTube views or Twitter followers can become an insta-celeb, this film strikes a, well, nerve.
“Nerve” is the name of a game in which “players” are assigned dares to perform in the real world by anonymous “watchers.” The players live-cast these stunts, ranging from the wacky like kissing a stranger, to the creepily dangerous, like stealing a gun from a policeman’s holster. Whoever gets the most watchers wins in this competition.
In the film, industrious high school senior Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts) is tired of living life on the sidelines. Pressured by her friends, Vee decides to join the popular online game. She is soon paired up with Ian (Dave Franco). The game starts out innocently enough with benign stunts, but it’s not long before the adrenaline-fueled competition requires them to perform increasingly dangerous stunts. When “Nerve” begins to take a sinister turn, Vee finds herself in a high-stakes finale that will ultimately determine her entire future.
First, let me say that Nerve is the perfect vehicle for Roberts. What will it take for her to become a major star? She almost stole the show in the Scream 4 ensemble cast. Then she more than held her own along such acting heavy weights like Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange in “American Horror Story: Coven.” Last season, she played the sorority queen bee to perfection in “Scream Queens.” She’s no longer just Eric Roberts’ daughter or Julia Roberts’ niece. She’s a star in her own right, and deservedly so.
Second, as the summer movie winds down, we’ve been given many empty promises. This movie “is a roller coaster from beginning to end.” That movie “is a pulse-pounding adventure that never lets go.” Sure, some movies are the thrill rides as promised, but most aren’t. Nerve is actually one of the movies that actually rises above the hyperbole.
Third, many film endings are thoroughly predictable. We’ve all seen enough movies to know where the plot is taking us. It’s not enough that a movie has the nerve to turn our expectations upside down. It’s not often that a movie’s conclusion is both satisfying AND unpredictable.
Fourth, though it’s a smaller role, I’m happy to see Juliette Lewis onscreen. In the early 90s, she had such a great string of roles in movies like Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers and Strange Days. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, her early roles didn’t lead to sustained big screen success. Maybe a small role in this potential cult-favorite movie will lead to bigger things. And yes, I wrote cult favorite. While I hope this movie is a success, I’m guessing that it will be one of those movies that isn’t a mainstream hit, but will earn a fanatical cult following, like the aforementioned Strange Days.
Fifth, I know I’m repeating myself, but some things bear to be repeated. When will Emma Roberts become a star? Michael Douglas received the torch from Kirk Douglas. Jamie Lee Curtis received the torch from Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Drew Barrymore received the torch from John Barrymore. Charlie Sheen received the torch from Martin Sheen. Angelia Jolie received the torch from Jon Voight. Okay, you get the picture. Maybe it’s time that the torch passes from Julia to Emma Roberts. You can always have two mega-stars in the same family.
Nerve is in theaters now.