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“Very Good Girls”: Very Bad Movie

July 27, 2014

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I’m not going to waste much time writing about Very Good Girls, since the chances aren’t very good that you’ll ever see it: It’s been available On Demand for weeks and received a cursory theatrical release over the weekend. The only reason you might be tempted to go see it, or more likely order it, is the cast: Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen star as New York City high-school seniors who resolve to lose their virginity before they go off to college. While that may sound like a 21st century version of Little Darlings, the result is far less fun.

The belated directorial debut of screenwriter Naomi Foner (better known as Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal’s mom than for her scripts to Running on Empty, Bee Season, etc.), Very Good Girls wavers uneasily between romantic comedy, as both young women fall for the same pretentious creep (Boyd Holbrook, Olsen’s real-life fiance), and feminist melodrama, as both women fall for the same… you get the picture.

In Foner’s overly schematic screenplay, Fanning and Olsen come from polar-opposite families: Fanning’s uptight-shrink mother (Ellen Barkin) and father (Clark Gregg) don’t want to talk about anything, even after they separate due to his infidelity; Olsen’s hippie-dippie parents (Richard Drefyuss and Demi Moore, an odd couple if ever there were one) never shut up.  All the characters are paradoxically both overcooked and underdone, and you’re left feeling unsatisfied, like you didn’t have a full meal.

Or at least that’s how I felt. The woman I watched it with, herself a psychologist, enjoyed it more than I did and understood why these two attractive, intelligent young woman would jeopardize their friendship by pursuing the same very bad boy. So maybe I’m just not the target audience for this chick-shtick flick.

It would take a team of psychologists, however, to determine why Foner would cast her own son-in-law, Peter Sarsgaard, as a pervy tour-boat operator who hits on—and ultimately makes out with—Fanning’s teenager. Also, to determine why Sarsgaard’s character was by far my favorite one in the film. Maybe I just like Peter Sarsgaard? Sometimes a Sarsgaard is just a Sarsgaard.

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