This week in my movie class, we saw the drama, “Very Good Girls” starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen.
When two young women graduate from high school, they decide they need to finally lose their virginity – but once they realize they are both competing for the attention of the same suitor, will they still be able to remain friends?
Lilly and Gerri (Fanning and Olsen) are best friends enjoying their last summer together at the beaches of Brooklyn before entering college in the fall. One thing laying heavily on their mind is the fact that they are both still virgins – something which they vow to address before their freshman year. On the boardwalk of Brighton Beach, they meet David – an attractive young man whose blonde hair and athletic appearance suggests he spends his days surfing. As it turns out, David is actually an aspiring photographer working various subsistence jobs until his career takes off. While both girls are taken with him, it appears that he may be drawn more to Gerri, whom he starts to see casually.
Meanwhile, Lilly has more urgent issues at home when her father is forced to move out once her mother (Ellen Barkin) learns he’s been cheating. Add to that Lilly’s boss (Peter Sarsgaard) has been hitting on her and she’s feeling understandably stressed. Unexpectedly, David locates Lilly and flirts with her; after seemingly chance encounters, Lilly eventually succumbs to his charms and the two hook-up. This of course causes Lilly immense guilt – Gerri doesn’t know about the tryst and neither Lilly nor David intend on telling her. Complicating matters is the fact that Lilly is falling in love with David.
Following a traumatic experience, Gerri begs David to relieve her of the curse of virginity; shortly thereafter, she proudly brags to Lilly that David has escorted her into womanhood. Given the circumstances, Lilly isn’t as enthusiastic as she would be if it had been someone other than David. Lilly is now realizing her intimacy with David has caused the monster to break out of its cage as she is confronted by her own sexual urges; unfortunately, conflicted because of her feelings for her friend and her lover, she no longer feels comfortable being with David. With the summer drawing to a close and Lilly preparing for Yale, will she and David be able to keep their secret from Gerri or can she share the truth with her at the risk of losing her best friend forever?
OK, let me get this straight: it’s 2013 in New York City and there are two extremely attractive teenage girls who are perfectly willing to lose their virginity but as yet haven’t, despite the fact that they’re approximately 18 years of age and bound for college? Really? No, this movie isn’t science fiction and yes, apparently the filmmakers actually expect us to buy into a premise that’s about as realistic as “Star Wars”. Given that there are a number of well-known actors in this film (Richard Dreyfus and Demi Moore play Gerri’s parents), one would have to suspect their appearance in “Very Good Girls” was done either as a favor or out of desperation for work.
There is precious little to recommend about “Very Good Girls”, except for the performances of Fanning and Olsen – but it is especially Olsen who really shines here, despite the very flawed material which has been foisted upon her. Although Fanning’s character is the lead, Olsen tends to stand out a bit more in her role, but given the script’s limitations, that may be saying more about her acting ability than the movie itself; I’m certainly not gushing here and if you’re considering seeing this movie primarily for Olsen’s portrayal of Gerri, that might be a mistake (although thankfully, the motion picture is only about an hour and a half should you decide to roll the dice on a viewing).
Following the screening, our instructor interviewed Naomi Foner, who wrote and directed “Very Good Girls”. Although Foner has an extensive track record as both a writer and producer, this is her first directorial effort at the age of 68. Foner said that with a modest budget on this independent film, she only had 23 days to shoot; since there are quite a few name actors appearing in the motion picture – mostly in small roles – much of the shooting schedule had to be arranged around their availability. Sarsgaard, for example, was only available for one day, so all of his scenes had to be completed in that time (by the way, Sarsgaard is Foner’s son-in-law; he’s married to Foner’s daughter Maggie Gyllenhaal, sister of Jake Gyllenhaal).