In the drama "Very Good Girls," the directorial debut of "Running on Empty" screenwriter Naomi Foner, thereâ€™s a nice little nod to Francois Truffautâ€™s "Jules and Jim" as the poster hangs on a bedroom wall. The 1962 classic concerns two good friends and the woman in which they both share affection for. This is only interesting because "Very Good Girls" has a plot in the same vein, as two college-bound best friends, Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerry (Elizabeth Olsen) both fall for a pretentious artist. Oh snap.Â
Whereas "Jules and Jim," which was released over 50 years ago, still proves to be refreshing and a film of engaging beauty to this day, "Very Good Girls" lacks anything thatâ€™s remotely refreshingly new. Instead, and much to our misfortune, itâ€™s a film thatâ€™s as bland and predictable as any that youâ€™d see routinely play on the Lifetime channel, squeezed into the schedule of endless reruns of "The Golden Girls."
At the center of the film is, of course, the longtime, endearing friendship of Lilly and Gerry. When the film opens, the two do something rebellious, or so they think. With the encouragement of Gerry, a sort of new-age outgoing hippie, her and Lilly strip naked in public and run across Brighton Beach and rush into the water. Come to think of it, this isnâ€™t really that rebellious, but whatever, they still have fun doing it.
Although theyâ€™re going to be heading to separate colleges at the end of the summer, they make it their goal to lose their virginity by the end of the summer, a plan that kicks into high gear after meeting David (Boyd Holbrook, obviously playing auto-pilot pretentiousness), a photographer/part-time ice cream vendor that probably could make any girl swoon over him when heâ€™s not plastering his photos all over the town as if heâ€™s an off-brand Bansky or building a sand structure of bacon and eggs on the beach.Â
Lilly just assumes that David would be interested in Gerry, since she gets the most attention from the opposite sex. Much to Lillyâ€™s surprise, though, she has captured Davidâ€™s attention and this leads to a sexual relationship between them. Of course, she tries to keep the relationship a secret from Gerry because she knows how much Gerry is into him. Oh snap again.Â
This sort of drama as depicted in such stale blandness in "Very Good Girls" is what only kids in high school would consider the least bit compelling. To me, it nearly put me to sleep faster than a few swigs of NyQuil. This is probably because it all just seems ridiculous.
Although the friendship and the chemistry between Fanning and Olsen is believable, despite their differences, their falling out stems from irrationality.Â Their friendship isnâ€™t developed any deeper, although it shouldâ€™ve, and Gerryâ€™s affection for David isnâ€™t nearly developed enough to make us really believe her pain when the big secret of Lilly and David "screwing around" is most predictably revealed in the third act.
Thereâ€™s more drama that peaks its head, but never explored further to add to the film or take away from it, such as the moment when Lilly catches her dad (Agent Coulson, err, I mean Clark Gregg) making out with one of his patients and the constant-fighting between her and her mother (Ellen Barkin).
The friction between her and her mother is even more apparent when the father moves out of the house. Who knows if Lilly is confused about her own feelings, but it sure confused the heck out of me when one scene sheâ€™s practically begging her mother to let her father move back home and then the next scene sheâ€™s telling her father to stay away. Ugh.
Gregg and Barkin both get much more screen time than Gerryâ€™s parents, portrayed by the unlikely pair of Richard Dreyfuss and Demi Moore. They have so little screen time that I question why they signed onto the film in the first place. Theyâ€™re both free-spirited parents but arenâ€™t given much more development beyond a subtle hint of quirk.
In fact, Iâ€™m willing to bet that the majority of their scenes were left on the cutting room floor because I wouldnâ€™t imagine that they would sign onto a film that allowed them to do so little Â other than spitting out a couple lines and, in Demi Mooreâ€™s case, offering a taste of gluten-free cooking. As for Peter Sarsgaard (did I not mention that heâ€™s also in this film?), an actor who is usually impressive in every role heâ€™s in (just ignore "The Green Lantern") is wasted in the role of Lillyâ€™s touchy-feely boss. Oh well.
Fanning, who has been acting for more than ten years, continues to prove that sheâ€™s a talented young woman who just needs to find more interesting roles. It'd be a smart career move to follow the same footsteps as her sister Elle Fanning. Elizabeth Olsen, who we all should know by now is the most talented of the Olsen sisters, isnâ€™t left deprived of like she was in "Godzilla," as she gives a somewhat lively performance as Gerry. It's too bad both characters were sort of annoying.Â
The two actresses definitely have chemistry, and most importantly, this makes their on screen friendship a little believable. At least for a little while, their chemistry made me forget that they are obviously too old to be teenagers who are about to be graduating from high school.Â
In the final scene, as Lilly is about to move away from home, Gerry comes to visit her and (spoiler alert) they predictably make up. Much like they did in the beginning of the film, they take off their clothes again before they rush through lawn sprinklers, enjoying their rekindled friendship and moving past David and the drama he has caused. Itâ€™s a moment thatâ€™s supposed to make the audience feel happy, but it only made me feel nauseated because I realized that I had wasted valuable time by watching a film that was so careless and lacking any depth, that it induced a yawn and a sluggish sigh.
"Very Good Girls" is currently playing on iTunes, VOD (check your local cable provider), and Amazon.Â
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Colton Dunham
Published May 2, 2015
OnMilwaukee.com recently chatted with Mike Scott before he and the rest of The Waterboys swing through Milwaukee for a show at Turner Hall on Tuesday, May 5 about the latest album "Modern Blues," the time spent recording in Nashville and what keeps him going.
Published April 30, 2015
OnMilwaukee.com recently chatted with singer-songwriter Caroline Smith before her show at Shank Hall on Friday, May 1 about her musical beginnings - including a four-hour gig at a restaurant in her hometown - her last record, her collaboration with her friend and fellow musician Lizzo, and her charity work.
Published April 22, 2015
Just recently, Netflix has made a few announcements. Marvel's "Daredevil" has thankfully been picked up for a second season, "Parks and Recreation" funnyman Aziz Ansari has a new series on the way and the "Full House" revival titled "Fuller House" is actually going to be a thing and not just a figment of TV's bad idea dream factory. If that all wasn't enough, Lena Dunham said that she wants to make a "Girls" movie ... when she's 40 years old.
Published April 15, 2015
For nearly an hour, MPS superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver spoke to an assembled crowd of early birds at YP Week's State of Education event about some of the work that's been happening as well as some of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Published April 15, 2015
NEWaukee founder Ian Abston was joined on stage with president Angela Damiani, and over the course of nearly an hour, spoke in detail about their start, the work they've accomplished so far -- such as establishing connections, fueling the art community and changing perceptions with their popular Night Market -- and their hopes are for the city of Milwaukee in coming years.
Published April 8, 2015
Cable-cutters rejoice! HBO Now is available starting this month for free! If that doesn't make you squeal with joy, then sour your mood even more so with the news that David Lynch isn't coming back for "Twin Peaks" because of money. But, look on the bright side, there might be new episodes of "Arrested Development" coming up, and "Game of Thrones," "Veep" and "Silicon Valley" are all coming back this Sunday.
Published April 4, 2015
Over the past few days, Trevor Noah has been named as the new host of "The Daily Show" and has been ridiculed on social media for tweets he wrote. Maybe it's time for some folks to lighten up a little bit.
Published April 3, 2015
Recently, it was announced that Foxygen's current tour will be its last, with a scheduled stop in Milwaukee on Apr. 7 at Turner Hall Ballroom. Does this mean that France and Rado are calling it quits? Not necessarily so. OnMilwaukee.com got the chance to speak with Rado about Foxygen's adolescent beginnings, their album "... And Star Power," on stage antics, alter egos and their current tour.
Published March 26, 2015
A fella from New Jersey must have some extra time and some pent-up Hilton-fueled anger this week because he formed a petition on change.org to remove DJ Paris Hilton from the Summerfest lineup.
Published March 25, 2015
Why, oh why did "The Office" have to end? The series celebrated it's 10th anniversary and as I saw former cast members tweet about it, it reminded me just how much fun I had watching the series on a weekly basis for nine seasons. Before I start binging, however, there's plenty of news to share.