Monday, August 25, 2014

Very Good Girls: Movie Review

Very dull girls make for a dull movie.
Very Good Girls opens with Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olsen) skinny dipping at a public beach in the middle of the day and with that the girls shed their good girl exteriors. It’s the summer before college and they’re struggling with that coming of age time. They’re virgins, their happiness and their confidence is fragile, and they’re both determined to change who they are, or how they are perceived. 2013

Directed by: Naomi Foner

Screenplay by: Naomi Foner

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen

Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen. Courtesy of 13 Films.
Not too surprisingly, the girls take themselves seriously – love, happiness and acceptance can be hard to find, and it’s important to them. Unfortunately, the movie takes itself very seriously as well. Heartache, distress and sorrow surround every moment of self-discovery with nary a moment of comedy. So much unhappiness, so little pay off. Even when the girls themselves aren’t that sad, there’s still an air of distrust and misfortune permeating through all the events of the movie.

Both girls have a strained relationship with their fathers. Lilly’s father (Clark Gregg) has affairs in the house and then gets kicked out and seems to place the other women above his own daughter. Gerri’s father (Richard Dreyfuss) turns everything into a joke and she doesn’t think he takes her seriously. But that just seemed like a clich√© attempt to parallel the girls’ struggles with coming of age and the inappropriate men they find themselves with.

The main plot is a love triangle. The girls meet an older boy, David (Boyd Holbrook), at the beach. He likes Lilly but Gerri likes him. This leads to a very tired push and pull at the girls’ friendship and Lilly pursuing an even more unhealthy relationship when she falls for the inappropriate advances of her boss, Fitzsimmons (Peter Sarsgaard).

Dakota Fanning and Boyd Holbrook. Courtesy of 13 Films.
Elizabeth Olsen had the more relatable and realistic character but the film centered more on Dakota Fanning’s Lilly. She’s particularly aggravating and unappealing and it’s unclear what all the guys liked about her. But nobody really had much of a personality. Holbrook was going for a mix of beach-sexiness and broodiness √† la Robert Pattinson but lacked the charm to make that work. Their love-making scenes focused on their eyes - not their faces, but an eyeball; as if that really develops their characters.

Very Good Girls is a relentless, monotonous drama which finally builds into some moments of rage, but it’s all still unlikable. The film had a very muted look; even on sunny days it would look dull and gray. Mirroring the girls themselves, but it doesn’t make it nice to watch. But then again, they’re not good girls. Perhaps teenage girls who are going through the same emotions as our young heroines who are looking for something more serious than their usual offerings will like this, but that’s a pretty limited audience.

Similar Titles:

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - Martha, Marcy May, and Marlene all caught between truth, sanity and madness.

Molly Maxwell (2013) - Takes an inappropriate relationship and turns it into a naturally honest and realistic portrayal of two well-developed characters.