The best thing about “Nerve” is that it doesn’t care what you think of it. While it’s not a crazy surreal soup like “The Lobster,” it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a film that feels quite so free in its own skin. The new Emma Roberts film starts like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and ends like “The Warriors” or “Escape from New York.| Its’ “The Hunger Games” as told by John Carpenter. “Nerve” is a total riot, the best bad movie in a long time.
The Pokemon Go craze couldn’t be more timely. If there’s a “Nerve” review that doesn’t mention the Net-age Rubik’s cube, some poor film writer is likely asleep—and possibly fired. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost have made a movie as awash in microwave social commentary as it is in the neon tint that dominates youth films. The “Dark Web” game sucking in the movie’s high-schoolers is described as “Truth or Dare without the Dare.” There are players who do the dares and watchers across the world who egg them on. The dares start off all fun and games. But your mother was right–it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or a life.
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Roberts plays a Staten Island wallflower sucked in by the thrill of it—and the movie is a strangely successful imbalance of hopeful teen-age coming-of-age and teenage slasher horror. Roberts seems to be on the wrong end of the family genetic code in her family. Teeny-tiny where her father and Aunt Julia are tall, she did get the horse teeth and electric smile. She wouldn’t be in the movies without her family, but she does have star presence. And she’s making the most of it.
To be successful a B-movie needs to have one thing going for it: a person, an idea, or a vibe. “Nerve” captures the thrill and uneasiness of being young and stupid in an age of digital voyeurism. Even if you know it will lose its “Nerve” at the end, that it will splash down into some acceptable finish, it’s still worth the ride to get there.
Produced by Allison Shearmur Productions, Keep Your Head and Lionsgate Films.
“Nerve” is currently showing in theaters.
READ ALSO: our review of THE LOBSTER from the 2015 Cannes Festival.