Saturday, 22 May 2021

Movie Review: Very Good Girls (2013)

A coming-of-age drama, Very Good Girls explores friendship, secrets and early sexual adventures but barely offers anything new.

In New York, best friends Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olson) would like to lose their virginity before heading out to college. Lilly's home environment is tense and her parents Edward and Norma (Clark Gregg and Ellen Barkin) barely communicate. Edward (Clark Gregg) is caught having an affair and soon leaves the house. In contrast Gerri's household is warm and loud, enlivened by her animated father Danny (Richard Dreyfuss). Lilly woks for the summer as a tour boat guide and has to fend off the lecherous advances of her boss, tour boat manager Fitsimmons (Peter Sarsgaard).

At Brighton Beach Lilly and Gerri meet hunky ice cream seller David (Boyd Holbrook) and they both set their eyes on him. Gerri openly states she wants to pursue David; Lilly is more coy, seeking a seduction without telling Gerri. Soon both young women are in various stages of involvement with the same guy, straining their friendship.

An independent production written and directed by Naomi Foner, Very Good Girls is low on energy and lacking innovation. The laid-back and carefree attitude suits the last-summer-before-college vibe, and both Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olson radiate youthful enthusiasm growing into adulthood with just the right dash of trepidation. But even for the sparse 91 minutes of running time, the material is thin and familiar, the characters quickly confined to uncommunicative territory spiked by obfuscation to serve the script's agenda.

The initial strong bond between Lilly and Geri is only sketched-in (a propensity for tearing off their clothes in public a hasty substitute for playful trust), leaving their friendship susceptible to the corrosive side-effects of a race for achieving womanhood behind secretive curtains. The scenes of young love and mutual seduction between Lilly and David are not helped by his predictably moody but vacuous character (he is the walking cliche of an aspiring street artist who wants to visit Europe). When their budding love affair hits the first rock of mistrust, the intended emotional impacts don't register.

The trio of Ellen Barkin, Richard Dreyfuss and Demi Moore (as Gerri's mother) roll back the decades and add veteran star power despite underwritten roles. Vaguely amiable without carving out an identity, Very Good Girls pout and plot but fade towards the back of a crowded class.



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