A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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What's the story?
In VERY GOOD GIRLS, Gerry (Elizabeth Olsen) and Lily (Dakota Fanning) are best friends enjoying their last summer before college hanging around Brooklyn, working, and trying to lose their virginity. It's not a bet like in American Pie, but the girls are done feeling like the "last virgins" their age. Things get complicated when they meet brooding ice cream vendor/photographer David (Boyd Holbrook) and Gerry immediately starts flirting with him ... except he only has eyes for Lily. Soon Lily and David begin to see and sleep with each other without telling Gerry, who still harbors a crush on him. Things get complicated when Gerry suffers a loss, and a guilty Lily sends David to comfort her.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how teen sexuality is depicted in Very Good Girls. Why is virginity such an important issue to the main characters? It is it believable that girls would have sex with guys they barely know? Did Lily and David have a healthy relationship?
How are sex, cheating, and forgiveness all portrayed as themes in the movie? How do these issues affect Gerry and Lily's friendship?
Actors often play much younger characters, and in this movie, Gerry and David were both played actors long out of high school. Was it obvious? Did it bother you?
- In theaters: July 25, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 23, 2014
- Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Ellen Barkin
- Director: Naomi Foner
- Studio: Tribeca Productions
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and sexual content
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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