Very Good Girls
Taglines: Whn we lose our innocence, we have to find ourselves.
Best friends Lily (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olsen), home for one last New York summer, make a pact to lose their virginity before leaving for college. But when they both fall for the same handsome artist (Holbrook) and Lily starts seeing him in secret, a lifelong friendship is tested.
Very Good Girls is the first feature directed by American screenwriter Naomi Foner, whose script for drama Running on Empty was Oscar-nominated. First screened publicly in early 2013, the coming-of-age drama stars Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as two friends who fall for the same man (Boyd Holbrook). The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2013; it was given release on home formats on June 24, 2014.
The supporting cast includes Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin, Clark Gregg, and Peter Sarsgaard. The film was produced by Norton Herrick, Michael London, and Mary Jane Skalski.
Review for Very Good Girls
Aside from being Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s mother, Naomi Foner is best known as the screenwriter of Sidney Lumet’s underappreciated 1988 drama Running on Empty. She makes a limp directing debut with another intimate reflection on family, friendship and coming of age, Very Good Girls, which is set in contemporary Brooklyn but informed by the same throwback countercultural sensibility as that earlier work.
Starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as best friends determined to lose their virginity in their final summer before going off to college, the film rings false at almost every turn despite its naturalistic performances. Lacking emotional substance, it comes off as far too studied in its subdued intensity.
Lilly (Fanning) and Gerri (Olsen) are first glimpsed taking a naked dip at Brighton Beach in broad daylight. Why? Back on the boardwalk afterwards, they encounter David (Boyd Holbrook), a twentysomething ice-cream vendor, sullen but cute, who ends up being the object of both girls’ affections.
A kind of Brooklyn Banksy, David plasters his photo-based graffiti art all over the neighborhood while yearning to take off and see Paris for real instead of just looking at pictures. Cementing the swoony artificiality of this character, he even has Lilly read a couple of lines of Sylvia Plath before their first kiss.
The two girls’ families couldn’t be more different. Lilly’s mother Norma (Ellen Barkin) is an uptight WASP shrink and her father Edward (Clark Gregg) is a doctor, both practicing out of their handsome home. That is until Edward gets caught canoodling with a patient. Gerri’s folks are of the crunchy granola variety; her dad Danny (Richard Dreyfuss) is a jolly old lefty, and his wife Kate (Demi Moore) is a soulful earth mother.
Not one of these four has much of a character to play, and Moore in particular is barely there. But they serve mainly to reflect aspects of the protagonists or to provide elements for them to chafe against. Reserved and introspective, Yale-bound Lilly has a summer job as a river cruise guide, with a boss (Foner’s son-in-law Peter Sarsgaard) who makes unsubtle advances. Gerri is more frisky and fun, dressing like a Halloween hippie and singing whimsical folk compositions at a local open mic night.
Her songs and others used in the film are by Jenny Lewis, who also is represented by a poster of her former band, Rilo Kiley, on Lilly’s bedroom wall. But that bid to add a veneer of hipster coolness is unpersuasive in a film that seems frozen in time.
Its biggest problem is that when the conflict arises — David only has eyes for Lilly, while Gerri thinks she’ll be the one to land him — neither girl behaves in ways that are credible for 21st century New Yorkers. Lilly offers up her virginity to him on the garage floor but keeps this news from Gerri. Out of guilt, she curtails their trysts after learning that Gerri’s family has suffered a tragedy, sending David over to console her.
Very Good Girls
Directed by: Naomi Foner
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin, Peter Sarsgaard, Clark Gregg
Screenplay by: Naomi Foner
Production Design by: Sharon Lomofsky
Cinematography by: Bobby Bukowski
Film Editing by: Andrew Hafitz, Dylan Tichenor
Set Decoration by: Graham Wichman
Costume Design by: David Tabbert
Music by: Jenny Lewis
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual content.
Studio: Tribeca Film, MG Film
Release Date: June 24, 2014