Nerve

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If anything is going to typify film in the Tens, it’s going to be mixed media. The found footage shift begun by Blair Witch Project gained steam in the Aughts, allowing (the illusion of) one continuous perspective on events that perhaps defied explanation. Increasingly, though (and perhaps due to a need, whether artistic or commercial, to incorporate newer technology and better angles), the focus is less on tracking a singular POV than capturing fragments of several–Chronicle or Unfriended springing instantly to mind. In Nerve, we open from the perspective of a computer screen, looking upon timid, waifish high schooler Vee (Emma Roberts). From there, viewpoint shreds as she’s drawn into “Nerve”, a social media game where players take on dares for money and to grow their audience (called “watchers”). The dares range from the relatively harmless (Vee’s friend Sydney mooning her schoolmates at a pep rally) to the insane (the film’s biggest setpiece is a blindfolded motorcycle ride through New York traffic). We increasingly look upon Vee, her friends, and Ian (Dave Franco), a mysterious fellow player who partners up with Vee, as multimedia art pieces, bathed in neon glow and dressed to the nines (after a forced streak though a bougie clothing store). Selfie sticks and drones intermingle with handheld and tracking shots of its subjects traversing the city and their dares. People gawp at them on computer and TV screens. Plot and character detail is doled out similarly, via text message and Youtube commentary, lives uploaded for all to see. Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost take this as an opportunity for both teen comedy/drama and techno-thriller, where the watchers use their anonymity and connections to fuel an anarcho-consumerist subculture built on bloodlust, schadenfreude, misogyny, and psychological manipulation. Human beings rendered as objects of desire and amusement.

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