This film got on my last nerve!
Not one likable character, in a film touted as a “character study,” makes for a very long night.
Josh Biggs (Tyler Langdon) suffers from a paralyzing Social Anxiety Disorder. When one of his co-workers — a pretty graduate student named Aurora Pilar (Laura Alexandra Ramos) — asks if she could do her dissertation on him, Josh agrees, hoping it will lead to a future romance. As Josh overcomes his anxieties and enters into an ill-advised physical relationship with Aurora, he exhibits other bizarre behaviors and his once carefully protected life begins to fall apart.
A Social Anxiety Disorder is one which causes a person excessive and unreasonable fear in social situations. In Nerve, Josh suffers with this affliction and Aurora wants to help him overcome it. Written, produced, and directed by J.R. Sawyers, this may be a classic case of someone biting off more than he can chew. Everything suffers from Sawyers’ wearing of so many hats, and the result is a fragmented tale with no apparent point.
It opens with our hero standing on the precipice of his balcony ledge, looking as if he will take a final plunge. Suddenly, we’re in the not too distant past, where Aurora decides to conduct some harebrained experimental dating initiation to help him overcome his disorder. That treatment is intertwined with subject interviews which are supposed to give us insight as to who Josh truly is. It doesn’t. Instead, we get a succession of vignettes strewn together in no meaningful order.
Aurora encourages Josh to introduce himself to people he would normally avoid. Good idea, have him move slowly and meet new people to help overcome the disorder. Of course that means going to bars to meet strange women with Aurora as his wing man (a bit unconventional). Josh doesn’t meet any women, because he’s awkward as hell and the woman he really wants is Aurora. When that experiment fails, Josh invites a group of homeless people to come live with him and his roommate Walt (Uh, Aurora…help). It’s an inexplicable move (in a film full of them) and this is where the story jumps the rails. This plot development is incongruous with the overall premise, and the scenes with Josh’s new homeless roomies looks and feels like a completely different movie.
Langdon is not believable as the socially phobic Josh, he just seems like a selfish jerk who hates being with people. Unfortunately, Langdon’s is the best performance of the entire cast…which illuminates the depth and breadth of the rest of the ensemble. Ramos, as Aurora, is the most deficient actor, delivering her lines with the same affect, regardless of the situation. Walt (Peter DiVito) is quite earnest in his attempts, but comes off like he’s reading lines off of a teleprompter. As for the homeless crew, they’re as forgettable and mediocre as everything else.
Presented in standard definition 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen, Sawyers’ Red Camera digital footage is crisp and clear. On the other hand, the Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix suffers from muffled dialogue and a soundtrack that often overpowers it. To make matters worse, b>Nerve’s musical score has to be one of the most painful I’ve ever heard, a low humming synth sound punctuated by electronic drums that seem more appropriate for a horror flick than this so-called dramedy. Thankfully, there were no extras, so I didn’t have to listen to the actors or the director extol the virtues of this 83 minute mess.
Nerve takes itself way too seriously. Sawyers’ believes his film has something important to say, too bad he couldn’t find a more coherent and compelling way to say it. Instead, we get unlikable characters in unbelievable situations, brought to life through bad acting, clumsy direction, and a terrible score, which coalesce into one big ball of awfulness.
Guilty. Social Anxiety Disorder makes me sad.