Emma Roberts and Dave Franco star in a scene from the movie "Nerve." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
NEW YORK (CNS) — Though geared to teens, the potentially intriguing drama "Nerve" (Lionsgate) includes visual and verbal elements that make it unfit fare even for mature adolescents.
As for their elders, they’ll find that the film’s original promise gets lost through a lack of focus well before it reaches its thoroughly implausible conclusion.
The action centers on an online game in which viewers pay to watch players fulfill real-life dares in exchange for significant sums of money. Primarily in an effort to shake her reputation for conformity, straight-laced New York City high school senior Venus "Vee" Delmonico (Emma Roberts) signs up to participate.
Though her devil-may-care best friend Sydney (Emily Meade), already a contestant, was the first to urge Vee to take part, she gets more than she bargained for when Vee’s popularity with so-called "watchers" begins to outstrip her own. But then Vee has romance on her side, since her partnership with vaguely mysterious fellow competitor Ian (Dave Franco, in a charismatic performance) is freighted with mutual attraction.
Perhaps following the lead of her source material, Jeanne Ryan’s 2012 novel, screenwriter Jessica Sharzer dissipates the story’s energy trying to check too many boxes. Social commentary competes with the love story until — as the titular contest’s stunts accelerate from the merely embarrassing to the truly dangerous — thrills take center stage.
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s film can also be considered a cautionary tale. Thus Vee’s pal and would-be boyfriend, Tommy (Miles Heizer), who serves as the movie’s voice of reason, looks on from the sidelines with justified dismay. Yet parents may nonetheless be concerned that the picture will unintentionally inspire imitation.
Additionally, one of the first challenges we’re shown — rather gratuitously — being met involves partial public nudity. Dialogue indicating that Sydney’s insecurity has led her to become promiscuous is confirmed, moreover, in a bedroom scene that, although not explicit, is sordid.
Like those with a fear of heights, for whom a trio of high-rise dares would make baneful viewing, youngsters should be steered clear of "Nerve."
The film contains potentially disturbing scenes of life-threatening peril, rear female nudity, nongraphic casual sexual activity, some scatological humor, several uses each of crude and crass language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.