Nerve

So I just got back from two weeks in Berlin, and of all the hundred movies offered to me on the flight, this was the first one I chose to watch. You know I love me some cautionary tales about the horrors of the internet, especially with a twist of clueless millennials ruining their lives over a fleeting moment of online fame, so this seemed well-neigh irresistible. And while it’s exactly the crappy movie you think it’s going to be, it’s also a goddamned fuckton of fun.

This is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who made their names with Catfish, and who are apparently making internet peril kind of their brand. We open with a sequence showing how completely online our main character Vee is [played by super-cute Emma Roberts], including the first of our two obvious product placements for Spotify. She’s the typical horror movie good girl, shy and smart and skilled, while her friend Sydney is reckless and desperate for attention. Sydney is playing nerve, an online game in which players perform dares to win money and gain “watchers.” It’s unclear, but apparently the dares [and money] are submitted by the watchers, a diverse, anonymous online community. After being called a wuss, Vee signs up, and we see the app absorb info from her social profiles, school records, bank account, etc.

She soon receives her first dare, which is to kiss Ian, played by cute Dave Franco. Then she is dared to go into Manhattan with him, then to try on outfits at Bergdoff, which soon results in her spending the rest of the movie in a gorgeous green dress and him in a suit. Soon you start to realize that this movie is going to all take place over one night, and also that it’s actually two-thirds romantic comedy to one-third cautionary thriller. The first hour is almost all rom-com, with our two charming lovers having a super-fun night all over Manhattan, which only starts to seem dangerous when they’re dared to go 60mph on a motorcycle while blindfolded. Meanwhile, Sydney is getting upset that Vee is more popular than her, leading her to take her own dangerous dares. Spoiler: No gets killed or even injured.

The movie faces the same challenge as… that one with Diane Lane, which is how to satisfyingly resolve a movie when there is no one villain and the whole point is that the collective villain can never be caught or punished.

The directors clearly have an idea about making a film saturated in color, and the whole thing definitely has an appealing look. It also has an excellent soundtrack of good modern pop and a few select oldies [Benny Mardones!], and overall, it’s just really good, silly fun. It’s totes millennial and has a sheen of Hackers-esque ignorant confidence about how only the young really know what’s going on [I had a big chortle when a teen character announces “I spend a lot of time on the dark web.”] It could obviously never approach the giddy stratospheric comic highs of Hackers, but if you want a silly fun rom-com internet thriller, there’s a good time in store for you.

PS, the film’s trailer below does an excellent job of summarizing the tone and action of the whole movie.

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