Nerve (2016), written by Jessica Sharzer, was a financial success.
- Draft Read: October 15th, 2013
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 117
Now that I have been reading scripts for a few months, I finally feel slightly more comfortable sharing my opinion on what works in a script and what doesn’t. So, let’s jump right in.
Except… first a quick note: If you were a fan of Casey Neistat’s daily vlog, 2015-2017ish, you may remember an episode where he played a bit part in Nerve, a semi-cross-marketing campaign. That’s how I heard about the movie. I was also surprised to learn that Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly, played Ty. Back to the script.
I actually found the script a bit heavy. In other words, the action lines felt bloated, meaning the reading pace was slower (more on that later).
The plot follows a nerdy high school girl, Vee, who through a social media platform called Nerve completes increasingly-dangerous challenges (ex. driving blindfolded) while competing for a chance to win the grand prize. The point of the screenplay is essentially shared in a quote on page 80:
We’re all ganna look back ten years from now at Twitter and Facebook and thisisme and we’re ganna wonder how we could be so stupid — to put all that private information online.
Well said, except Nerve did come out ten years ago, in 2013, and in 2023 we have TikTok. So for better or worse, we went in the other direction, which the script ending hints at.
The entire screenplay takes course over one day (except the very end) and is linear. I noted the transition to Act 3 on page 85, exactly 75% through the screenplay, again standard and formulaic.
I did find the plot a bit over the top. There were many doorways for the protagonist, Vee, to simply quit the game. Almost to the point where the script felt like a horror film where the main character carelessly opens a door with a skeleton behind it even though there is no logical reason to do so. Likewise, the main character was very suggestible: Just stop playing the game Vee!
Not really sure what to say here. The main character Vee was well-developed, but the supporting character like Tommy and Sydney… ehh. Actually, most of the characters were suggestible and quickly switched emotions/moods in the same scenes.
For example, in one or two lines and perhaps a well-timed hug, all of the contestants are convinced to point guns at each other for the sake of the game. Seriously? The flip side is, for a game like this to go the distance (and for the script to work), it relies on impulse stooges… Well, it is a film about teenagers.
Dialogue & Pacing
I felt the dialogue was odd. The majority of the lines appeared to be written by an adult attempting to emulate a teenage voice, rather than authentically capturing the nuances of teenage language and expression. Here’s a song from Ty, a frat bro and the antagonist:
I’M ALPHA BORN
AND I’M PHI ALPHA BRED
AND WHEN I DIE
I’LL BE PHI ALPHA DEAD
(to Smily Face)
Yo, Smiley! Are we there yet?
See what I mean?
An interesting choice by the author was to include rather descriptive action lines. For example, here is one towards the end of the script:
It’s a glorious New York day. Clear sky, dappled leaves, signs of life everywhere. Vee bikes to work, pedaling hard. The conversation wasn’t a resounding win, but she told the truth. She feels lighter, free. She soars down the street.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a line like that, but it could have been shortened.
Again, this is author personal preference. The flip side is, with so many longer action lines the reading becomes slower. In regard to pacing of the story itself, that is solid. It certainly gets more thrilling toward the end.
This is a movie written from a female perspective and ultimately hits on many of the themes prevalent in teen-centered female-focused stories; friendships, boys, relationships… even fashion and looks play a major part.
I would think to some people those are very important values, but to me, as a guy, I didn’t connect so much.
Best Part of The Script
Even though Ty came across as a caricature that represents everything wrong with frat bros, he did add a comedic element to the story. Since he really is only prevalent in the Third Act up until the climax, I feel that is the best part of the script.