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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The overall messages are that best friends should be honest with each other and that it's not a wise idea to lie or manipulate others. Lily's behavior and choices make it clear how destructive dishonesty and playing with emotions can be, particularly when dealing with a best friend and a significant other. Another valuable lesson is that sex and jealousy shouldn't be used as weapons against people.
Positive Role Models
Both girls sometimes behave in a questionable manner, but they're ultimately devoted friends to each other, even after a guy's affections temporarily get in the way. They still have a lot to figure out, but they know they have each other, no matter what.
Violence & Scariness
Gerry pushes Lily in anger. A secondary character dies suddenly (off camera). A young man holds a woman's chin pretty intensely.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex is a major theme of the movie; the main characters' goal is to lose their virginity before college. Some partial nudity as the girls run naked into the beach (a brief glimpse of bottoms, backs, and the side of breasts). Several love scenes, but most are dark, so viewers see skin and limbs and hear moans and other noises, but there's no clear nudity. The girls discuss wanting to have sex, and then one exaggerates about doing it, but the other keeps her love life to herself. A daughter discovers her father making out with a woman who isn't his wife.
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Occasional strong language includes "f--k," "d--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and "bitch."
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Products & Purchases
Brands/products seen include Mercedes and Coke.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Underage young women drink in the company of other underage but out of high school friends and, in one case, with a much older boss.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Very Good Girls is an indie coming-of-age drama starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as best friends who hope to lose their virginity before starting college. Sex is a major theme of the movie -- who's having it and with whom (both girls fall for the same guy, and a father is caught cheating on his wife). There's some partial nudity during a skinny dipping scene (the two leads are shown running into the surf from behind), and while there are sex scenes, since they're pretty dark, you see skin and kissing and hear moaning, but there's no graphic nudity. Expect some swearing ("s--t," "f--k," and more) and underage drinking. But there are also lessons for teens about the importance of honesty in relationships, whether they're marital, romantic, or friendship. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Respected screenwriter (and mother of stars Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal) Naomi Foner makes her feature film debut with this slow-moving, unremarkable character study. It's the story of 18-year-old best friends who spend a summer exploring their sexuality, pushing their friendship, and dealing with parental issues. Although Olsen and Fanning are both wonderful actresses, they're miscast as contemporaries (their five-year age gap is glaringly obvious, as is the fact that Holbrook is a decade older than Fanning), and their talent can't save this soporific and self-indulgent drama.
It's always a shame when a guy (however temporarily) comes between young women, particularly when the guy is basically a hipster stereotype who spends his spare time reading Sylvia Plath and pasting his close-up portraits to public spaces. The girls' home lives are supposed to be hugely contrasting, with Lily the daughter of rich and repressed WASPs -- mom (Ellen Barkin, borderline unrecognizable) is a therapist, and dad (Clark Gregg) is a doctor who's cheating on his wife -- and Gerry the daughter of rich and open leftists: mom (Demi Moore) spouts feminist advice, and dad (Richard Dreyfuss) spouts leftist leanings. But all of the parents, especially Moore and Dreyfuss, have little to do, as does Peter Sarsgaard (Foner's son in law) as Lily's creepily interested boss. Holbrook, on the other hand, has SO much to do, but he doesn't have enough charisma to pull off being "the guy," so the whole movie basically becomes one big head scratcher about why Lily and Gerry would risk their friendship to be with him. The story initially has promise, but it just doesn't deliver.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.