The novel ‘Nerve’ had the distinct tone of a toned-down horror movie – the film, however, was a completely different creature.
I found the book compelling. I giggled at some of the dares the Players of the app are put through, and my pulse raced in others. I also liked the interactivity of the Watchers. The concept of the game gave me that silly high you get when you do something stupid as a teenager. That thrill of breaking the rules and giving into abandonment. Some of the dares are lame, but it is to be expected for building tension. The film highlighted different motivations for the main characters – redemption, money, or breaking out of the box people keep labelling you with. I found the movie much more thrilling, and the complexity between the cast more interesting with tension and jealousy coming in to play. It also added an air of mystery around the origin and reason for the game, and the introduction of the Watchers (and Controllers). Where the book is fun and innocent, the film is intricate, daring, and foreboding.
Our protagonist Vee is a cute, bookish and unassuming girl – very much how I was in high school. She has a strong moral compass which is what kept me reading. She was crapping her pants, but stuck to her morals and always found a solution she could live with. She remained true to this impression in both the film and the novel. I loved Emma Roberts portrayal of her. She nailed the shy yet determined aspect of Vee to a tee. You could also see the uncertainty and excitement come through a lot more with Emma Roberts’ interpretation of Vee.
Ian, one of the men in Vee’s life, felt a little stereotypical, and a lot of eye-rolling went with his story, but by the end of the novel I actually thought he was pretty decent and genuine. The same goes for Sydney, Vee’s bestie for the experience I got reading the novel. In the film we get a more possessive Ian and a self-absorbed Sydney. I felt it added a better dynamic and allowed our protagonist Vee to shine. Praise goes to the screenwriters!
Tommy, the love interest for the book … well I’ll let that one go. He’s a bit of a mixed bag and I think there is still more of his story to tell. This can be said for many of the cast as well. They all have their motivations for joining the game NERVE – to better their lives, to become famous, to have an adrenaline rush… but the snippets into their lives was truly interesting. Like peeking into the lives of strangers, grotesque and fascinating. The movie explored this much more deeply with the interpretation from actor Dave Franco. We get a horrific and tragic backstory for Tommy. Also there is a nefarious element to the game not present in the novel that I felt added something extra – leading up to a more satisfying climax.
The ending for the book, though I loved the intelligence and strategy of it, did not have the thrill of the beginning dares. It devolved into a clichéd Mexican standoff. But I did like the twist ending. I love a bit of cheesy, in-your-face tone that leave the reader/viewer saying WTF? The movie, though still remaining true to the concept of the book, added a layer of social responsibility.
The pacing is top-notch, I found myself reading three-quarters of the book on one sitting, until my eyes started drooping. The storyline isn’t what is so attention grabbing, it’s more like the anticipation of what comes next… and that’s the whole book in a nutshell. It’s done really well for what it is. It reminds me of those campy cult classics people love, where substance is low, but it connects to something primal that we find impossibly entertaining. The movie did it all better, but the storyline felt flawed to start with, but the big screen version certainly redeemed ‘Nerve’ in my eyes. Still cliché, but entertaining.
The whole book was a wonderful satire on fame, and what it costs you. It was also a sanatised poke at all these ‘Saw’ movies… Surprising to find layers like this in ‘Nerve.’ I’m glad the film departed from this element, instead focusing on the core motivations as to why someone would choose to partake in the game, as either a Player or a Watcher.
Jeanne Ryan, had a wonderful writing style. I felt like I was thinking the words as I read them. No grand descriptions or lengthy inner monologues. It was simple and to the point – which is what you need to build tension and move the pace along. The treatment of the film was as equally thrilling, entertaining and funny, though I am confident in saying it pulled it off with greater finesse than the book.
I would have enjoyed the novel far more if we got to get to know the characters better (like the film), had dares with higher stakes (like the film), and more adrenaline inducing scenarios (like the… well you get the point). Additionally, a bigger conspiracy and a bigger peek behind the curtain – and that is in the film! It’s as if the screenwriters read my mind and added all the little things I felt were lacking from the book. Even though ‘Nerve’ is a standalone, it sets things up enough that it could be considered the start of a series. I liked the open-ended tone that both film and novel conclude on. Enjoyable, silly fun.
Book 3.5 stars, movie 4 stars
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