It's been a long time since someone's tried diligently to make a coming of age movie about girls. Maybe the last commercially successful time was Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (I'm sure the word "sisterhood" has no bearing on either film's box office revenue...) and the last truly amazing time was Now and Then. Naomi Foner (a.k.a. Naomi Gyllenhaal, Jake and Maggie's mama) does her best to revive this genre, but can't help but veer toward something of a Lifetime vibe in Very Good Girls (the title alone is sort of a giveaway of the inevitable badness).
Foner, who previously hit her stride with the scripts for Losing Isaiah and Bee Season, struggles to make her main characters, Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerry (Elizabeth Olsen), come across as anything other than utterly vacuous. The two friends share an affinity primarily due to the fact that neither one has managed to lose her virginity. Otherwise, they are decidedly different, with Lilly's family being the stodgier, more conventional kind and Gerry's being the stereotypical bohemian kind. Moreover, the roles of their parental and sibling figures are wasted on the talents of Ellen Barkin (more plastic surgery laden than ever), Richard Dreyfuss, Kiernan Skipka and Demi Moore.
The film's title becomes over saturated with irony when Lilly and Gerry encounter an attractive ice cream seller on the beach named David (Boyd Holbrook, who I guess is supposed to be a poor woman's Ryan Gosling). Gerry is the first to exhibit overt interest in him, which automatically leads David to favor Lilly. Oblivious to his disinterest, Gerry pursues David shamelessly, even going to the restaurant where he works for dinner with her parents. David's attraction to Lilly, however, grows stronger, and he ends up papering the area near where she works with a picture he took of her that features the caption, "Where do you live?" This would be much creepier if he wasn't good looking.
Unable to resist the temptation, Lilly gives in to David and loses her V-card (yes, I said V-card) to him at long last. Her guilt over betraying her best friend reaches a crescendo when Gerry's father is killed in a subway accident (it's New York, so...um, I guess that's believable). Wanting to somehow absolve herself, she asks David to start seeing Gerry as some sort of emotional compensation for her loss. But Lilly's jealousy gets the better of her when Gerry lies and says she slept with David. This prompts Lilly to seek comfort in the grossness of her boss, Fitzsimmons (the undisappointingly smarmy Peter Sarsgaard, Foner's son-in-law). She can't bring herself to actually have sex with him, but still tells David she did in order to get back at him. In the meantime, she clutches nebulously to her breasts and I suppose we're maybe supposed to infer she's pregnant, though this is never addressed.
While the drama of the script is occasionally interesting, it's almost as though Foner relies exclusively on Fanning and Olsen prancing around in various states of undress to make up for character development and plot. And while that might work for anyone who's watching it specifically to masturbate, it doesn't really work from an audience engagement standpoint. But, on the plus side, at least there's some new music from Jenny Lewis on the soundtrack.