TMN Movie Review: "Very Good Girls"

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Two New York City girls make a pact to lose their virginity during their first summer out of high school. When they both fall for the same street artist, the friends find their connection tested for the first time.
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Rating: R
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Directed by: Naomi Foner
Genre: Drama

The summer always brings a few memorable indie films to the screen, and "Very Good Girls" is a worthy entry in this tradition. The coming-of-age flick from director and screenwriter Naomi Foner follows two friends with a sisterly bond who decide to lose their virginity over the summer. When both they fall for the same dreamy guy, however, things begin to get messy. "Very Good Girls" may have its flaws, but viewers who don't over-analyze it are sure to enjoy the subtle drama and talented actors that light up the screen.

Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olsen) may be polar opposites, but their close friendship has made them nearly inseparable. The two New York girls make a pact before their last summer after high school to lose their virginity before they go off to college. Near the beginning of the film, they go skinny-dipping at a beach in the middle of the day before going to get ice cream. That's when they meet David (Boyd Holbrook), a charming ice cream vendor in his 20s. Both girls soon fall for the young photo-graffiti artist who dreams of going to Paris.

Lilly is a soft-spoken, thoughtful young woman who tends to keep her emotions to herself. Her father (Clark Gregg) is a doctor, and her mother (Ellen Barkin) is a shrink. Lilly, headed to Yale in the fall, has landed a summer job as a river cruise guide. Gerri, on the other hand, is an open, outgoing hippie type whose parents (Demi Moore and Richard Dreyfuss) are even more liberal and nature-loving than she is.

David ends up falling for Lilly, posting candid pictures of her around the neighborhood in hopes of winning her affection. She gives him a chance, and their relationship begins. Gerri, however, still believes that she will be the one to win David's heart once and for all.

Things heat up between the two friends, and their relationship is tested. Lilly doesn't tell Gerri about offering her virginity to David, creating a greater rift in their friendship. It's not until Gerri's family experiences a sad tragedy that things really begin to heat up. When Lilly sends David over to see Gerri, secrets are spilled, and Gerri begins avoiding David. Eventually Lilly must come clean about all her secrets as her friendship with Gerri hangs in the balance.

"Very Good Girls" explores the themes of love, friendship and family without ever becoming overbearing. The soundtrack, cinematography and insightful dialogue all work together to create a realistic feel. The relaxed pacing fits well with the story, but plenty of heated moments keep viewers on their toes. It all makes for a pleasurable viewing experience for those who want to get swept up in a complicated summer romance.

Although this film has a lot going for it, a few unavoidable flaws keep it from living up to its full potential. The premise itself is somewhat unappealing, based as it is on the uncomfortable proposition that a handsome face is enough to break up a strong friendship between two young women. The characters themselves are not as fully developed as they might be, especially David, whose character just feels a little too artificial. Still, Fanning and Olsen have an undeniable chemistry that gives the film an air of authenticity even when other characters falter.

Fanning is a talented young actress who has proven her mature acting abilities time and again. "Very Good Girls" is an excellent addition to her repertoire as she portrays a reserved character with bursts of emotions at key points. Olsen may be a bit miscast and doesn't really come across as a girl fresh out of high school. At the same time, she works with the script to create a lovable character who is both charming and offbeat. The cast of supporting characters, including notable actors like Peter Sarsgaard, Moore and Dreyfuss, don't get nearly enough screen time, yet still add to the film to help create a believable story.

"Very Good Girls" may feature the familiar story of a summer romance that centers on a love triangle, but Foner puts a fresh twist on the tale with a more prominent focus on the friendship between Lilly and Gerri than on their romantic endeavors. Despite a few bumps, this film is a smooth ride that is sure to leave audiences sighing, swooning and maybe even tearing up. "Very Good Girls" may not be the cinematic masterpiece of the year, but it is a great watch for the casual viewer.