Dave Franco has a perfect face.
His eyebrows are strong and his jawline is stronger. His mouth is the exact right amount of wide, as is his forehead. His hair is charming without being obtrusive, which happens occasionally with movie stars, like it does for Jake Gyllenhaal every now and then. His eyes are big enough to be expressive, but small enough to keep his secrets from sneaking out. His ears and his nose are afterthoughts, and that’s almost always the best way for noses and ears to exist. His lips and his cheekbones and his chin … [imagine that I’m making that hand gesture where you touch your thumb to your forefinger and middle finger and you hold it up and shake just a tiny amount like how they would do in old gangster movies when the sauce was really good].
More specifically: Dave Franco has a perfect face for acting. When he tells a funny story, like he did on Conan O’Brien’s show in 2013, his face looks like poetry. When he looks at someone snidely, like how he did during the “You know who calls people narcs?” conversation in 21 Jump Street, it feels like there is no worth or warmth in your bones or body. When he smolders, which he does any time he is near a motorcycle, it feels like the sun is shining on your shoulders after you’ve been sitting in an especially cold room. When he expresses expansive joy, like literally every time he smiles, it feels like reading an important email with good news in it, or hugging someone at the airport after you’ve returned home, or being told you’re valuable by someone you respect.
His new movie, Nerve, isn’t that great, but it’s so great because it stars Dave Franco, who has a perfect face. It has a scene in which he rides a motorcycle through New York with a small woman as his passenger and he can’t see anything because there’s a bumper sticker on the visor of his helmet. The sticker was given to him by Machine Gun Kelly, who was wearing a sleeveless jacket with shoulder pads at the time. At the end of the movie, there’s a woman who does a thing on a computer and this other woman gets all the money back that was stolen from her and the woman with the computer says, “They don’t call me Hacker Queen for nothing.” That’s the kind of movie it is.
But the motorcycle scene is great. Franco has to get the motorcycle up to 60 miles per hour while blindfolded or else he and the small woman — played by Emma Roberts, who is fantastic — will lose an internet challenge (the premise of the movie: People livestream themselves completing dares provided to them by people watching the stream; each dare is more life-threatening than the previous one) and she will also lose a challenge to herself from herself (she only signed up to play the game because she’d been told she was too timid to ever do so). Roberts guides Franco as he drives the motorcycle. They gain speed slowly until suddenly they aren’t going so slow anymore. They dodge cars and partitions and other things. It’s a very nerve-wracking and anxious and uncomfortable scene. It’s the second-most intense moment of the movie. At the end of the scene, Dave Franco takes his helmet off and you can see his face, which is perfect.
There’s another scene in Nerve when Franco holds a book up as he reads it and the book covers his face, and I didn’t like that scene too much, but I actually liked it a lot because I knew I was seconds away from being able to see Dave Franco’s face, which is perfect. The only thing that comes close to how it feels to see Dave Franco’s face is the anticipation that comes with knowing that you’re about to see Dave Franco’s face, which is perfect.
There’s another scene in Nerve in which Franco and Roberts end up in their underwear. Dave Franco has more muscles than you’re expecting to him to have.
Nerve will probably not get great reviews. That’s unfortunate because it’s a generally fun movie, but it’s understandable because it’s also a silly movie because of things like a person yelling stuff like, “It’s easy to be anonymous on the internet, but that doesn’t make you brave!” (Machine Gun Kelly is holding a gun while the person says this.) Dave Franco’s not the person who says this. He doesn’t say much of anything, really. He’s mostly there so Emma Roberts has someone to talk to or to encourage her to do things (and then to not do things later in the movie), which is fine, because he does so with his face, which is perfect. Because Dave Franco is a good actor. I wonder if he ever thinks about how good of an actor he is. I wonder how much he compares himself to his brother James Franco. I wonder if he ever says anything like, “I can’t believe you got nominated for an Oscar for 127 Hours.”
So far this summer, Dave Franco has appeared in Neighbors 2 and Nerve and Now You See Me 2 and also BoJack Horseman, a Netflix series about a sad horse (or something). It feels like something has changed, like it’s “James Franco is Dave Franco’s brother” instead of “Dave Franco is James Franco’s brother.” It makes sense. James Franco has a pretty good face. Sometimes it’s even really good, like when he was in Annapolis. But it’s not perfect. I bet Annapolis would’ve been so fucking good if it starred Dave Franco, whose face is perfect.
(Did you know that Emma Roberts was also in a movie with James Franco? It was called Palo Alto. She was very good in it, as she is in Nerve, too, or at least as good as the script allows her to be. She has a whispery quality to her, but I don’t think it’s an innate thing; I suspect it’s a thing she wields as a creative decision.)
Dave Franco’s perfect face has been around for a little while now. Maybe you’ve forgotten: He played a character named Cole in the last season of Scrubs. It was a bad season, but Franco’s face and voice and charm made it feel purposeful. This, you thought, is what the beginning of a movie star’s career looks like. In the first scene he’s in, the show’s main star, Lucy, introduces herself to him. He says hello, then asks if she wants to go somewhere and “get weird with each other” after the class they are in is over. She tells him that he’s skipped some steps in their conversation, that he’s being way too forward. He responds, “Come on, you already know if you’re in or out,” and when he says it his eyes are sharp and his hair is riveting. “So what’s the deal, girl?” She imagines herself straddling him, then grabbing his head and licking him from the bottom of his neck up to his eyebrows. Then we see her back in her seat. “Not… interested,” she says, even though she very clearly is.
Dave Franco is interesting, even when you don’t want him to be.
Dave Franco’s face is perfect, even when it doesn’t need to be.