Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nerve [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Nerve [2016] (directed by  and screenplay by based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Jeanne Ryan [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a VERY WELL CRAFTED truly _teen oriented_ "PG-13" film that PARENTS should at least know about BUT one whose makers knew their responsibilities quite well... and hence kept the film within PG-13 boundaries and even told the story in a way that will probably more convincingly scare teens into being much more careful about their online habits than any amount of well-meaning talks from concerned parents / teachers ever could.

The film's about an online game called "Nerve" (the name of the film as well as the book on which it is based) which could be described as the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon's very even extremely Evil Twin.  Basically, the Game's online participants are divided into two groups: "The Players" and "The Watchers."  The Watchers have to pay (nominal though presumably increasing fees) to "watch" The Players "play", while The Players are dared to do increasingly crazy tasks by some kind of online artificially intelligent "Hive Brain", while of course video-streaming themselves (with their cellphones) doing them. 

These "tasks" would be tailored for each Player by the "Hive Brain" (an open-source computer program) based on the suggestions of The Watchers as well as _everything_ that this "hive brain" could collect about the various individual Players from other Social Media / the Internet.   For tasks completed, the Players would get money direct deposited into their (already existing ... ) bank accounts linked to them, hence a level of creepiness _from the very beginning_ as the "Hive Brain" would search-out _each Player's financial information_ in order to "kindly make (said) direct deposits" for them as their participation in The Game progresses.

So the story centers around a somewhat nerdy (photog for the yearbook) NYC (Staten Island) high school senior named Vee (played very, very well by Emma Roberts, she's a natural for these kind of roles) whose cheer-leading BFF Sydney (played again quite well by Emily Meade) begins the film already as "a Player" in the game (and who encourages Vee to at least signup as "a Watcher" (so that she, Sydney, could get more fans).

Well, after being quite accidentally embarrassed by Sydney after school one afternoon, she decides to join said Game ... as a Player not watcher.  And soon she gets her first task -- kiss a complete stranger for 5 seconds (with 30 minutes to complete said task).  What to do?  Vee calls Sydney's similarly nerdy brother Tommy (played similarly quite wonderfully by Miles Hiezer) who naturally has an enormous if unrequited crush on Vee ... and asks him to drive and accompany her to a local teen hangout to find some random guy to kiss.  There looking around and sizing up the prospects, they decide on an innocuous looking guy (played by Dave Franco) who's sitting alone in a booth.  As Vee approaches him, she notices that he seems to be with a rather odd book for a guy to be reading Virginia Woolf's [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] novel To The Lighthouse [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] which actually gives her an ice-breaker: "Hey that's my favorite book! (how odd that you'd be reading it...)."  Well, anyway, she plants a kiss on him.  Poor Tommy dutifully records said kiss on her cell phone and ... she's informed "Task completed, $100 will be deposited into your bank account."  And her number of "Watchers" shoots up to over 100. 

It turns out that "the guy", who's name is Ian, was there, of course, because of The Game as well.  And he has the task of "serenading a random woman" with a really corny song, which he does of course for Vee.  And soon both are given tasks of (1) "take a random woman into the city" and (2) "go with the guy you kissed into the city."  Perhaps a little uneasy, but with adrenaline flowing Vee consents to hop on Ian's motorbike and by way of Jersey and presumably the George Washington Bridge, soon they're in Manhattan and ... the rest of the film unspools from there.  

As the evening / night progress the two are given increasingly challenging / corny and ... FRANKLY DANGEROUS tasks.  They complete them one-by-one, increasing both their cash earnings as well as their number of Watchers ... which inevitably comes to piss-off  Sydney who believed herself to be "the cool one" in her friendship with Vee. 

Now Parents reading this, if you'd be concerned that this film would encourage your teens to become recklessly infatuated with some cyber game like this ... I _don't_ think you'd really have to worry about this ;-).   Indeed, I'd actually encourage you to have your teens go see the film (with you or without you).  Why?  Because I do believe that this film really "speaks teen" ;-) ... After a while, the stunts being asked of "The Players" in this game are so _self-evidently_ dangerous that most teens would go "OMG there is _no way_ that I'd ever do this!  The people who invented this game _should all go to jail_, etc."  And Parents, you could then "just smile" ;-) ... THIS IS ONE TIME THAT HOLLYWOOD DID YOUR JOB ;-) ;-)

Honestly, it's a wonderful film and could serve as a _ very good_ means for talking to your kids about "internet safety" (including _financial safety_) in a way that perhaps would have been hard to do otherwise.  Honestly, EXCELLENT JOB!

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