Believability is, most often, the key aspect of what makes a decent film. Do I believe that these characters are real and that everything they say and do is real? Do these actors and actresses believe what they’re doing is real and do they believe that they’ve done a sufficient job of making me believe them? Is the story believable enough to make a shred of sense? These are all questions that need to be asked while making a movie and everyone one this film (save for one) just skipped over them. I’m not sure how, but they managed to make an unbelievable film, full of unbelievable performances.
School is out and high school has come an gone. Recent graduates and best friends Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olsen) are content on making Summer the best it can be, before they embark on the next chapter of their lives. Their main goal is to finally have sex and enter college with some experience and they don’t think that it can be all that hard to find the right person. With similar tastes in most everything, it’s only fitting that the two girls share a similar taste in men. Things start to heat up for the girls when they run into a mysteriously good-looking ice cream stand boy/man.
Without knowing his name, the girls talk about him day in and day out, until Lilly manages to meet him back at the stand and starts to get to know him. This interaction is good for her, because her parents (Ellen Barkin & Clark Gregg) are fighting at home and are considering a divorce. Gerri also meets up with this stranger, now known as David (Boyd Holbrook), and begins to fall for him too. Though her parents (Demi Moore & Richard Dreyfuss) marriage is fine, they still bug her and she needs an excuse to get out. Both girls begin hanging around David, but only Lilly gets anywhere with him and keeps it all from the hopeful Gerri. Will their lifelong friendship be torn over some handsome and brooding boy?
Very Good Girls is perhaps the worst title for a film and it’s certainly one that’s not befitting of such a bland film. A title such as Very Mediocre Girls, or Very Average Girls would have made a lot more sense. That’s not to say that everything in this film is bad, but it all feels so cheap and fake and I really only bought a couple of the performances at most. It tries way too hard to be something more than a Lifetime special, never reaching a genuine level of storytelling and character depth. It could have been something fun with its two great lead actresses, but this film never surpasses boring.
Elizabeth Olsen is the only very good thing about this movie. Whether she’s acting like a complete dork, or expressing an immense emotional range, Olsen captivates the screen and proves that this film isn’t a complete bomb. Olsen has a natural charm to her that makes her instantly likable by anyone and allows her to play off of her less-than-stellar co-stars. When she’s not displaying her fun-loving nature, she succeeds in finding emotion and being able to display all that she’s feeling at any given moment. There’s an instant in the film where she’s reached the lowest of low’s and her vulnerability is one of the strongest scenes that I’ve seen her produce. There’s a reason that she is among the best young actresses of our time and she shows that wonderful here.
Now, Dakota Fanning has been a child star since I can remember, but her work has lately been eclipsed by her younger sister, Elle. It’s no secret that I’m a far bigger fan of Elle, but that’s not to say that I haven’t seen Dakota perform well. I’ve always thought of her as a monotonous performer and she reaffirms that in this film, this time subtracting all emotion too. Her character doesn’t know how to smile and even when she’s happy, she looks like it’s the worse day ever. Moreso, I never found her affinity for Holbrook to be real and the fact that she kept going back to him surprised me, because she never seemed interested in him at all. She’s supposed to be a young graduate, attempting to lose her virginity and she couldn’t seem less excited by that possibility.
I must have missed the part in the movie where Holbrook cast a spell on the two girls, because he’s got to be the least interesting man in the world, attempting to come off as Ryan Gosling in Drive. He’s a man of few words and even fewer emotions, who just sort of stands around and gives us some smolder every now and then. As a human being, he seems more like a socially awkward alien who doesn’t know how to handle someone looking at him, resulting in him deciding to come and go at the most random of times. It doesn’t seem like he cares for either girl and his being off in la-la land doesn’t help the movie at all.
Storywise, this film couldn’t be more of a mess that even the divine Elizabeth Olsen could save. The two girls want to have sex and that’s perfectly fine, but they go about it in such cliche and stereotypical ways. This film presents the girls as needing to accomplish their goal and getting into little arguments over it, just as if they were pre-teens. They both like the same guy (for reasons I’m still in the dark on), but Fanning doesn’t tell Olsen, only trying to add more drama. Then, there’s the inclusion of Sarsgaard as the creepy boss hitting on Fanning and that portion of the film is bizarre. You also can’t forget the family drama that ensues, leaving are leads more broken and in desperate need of affection.
Very Good Girls does not work as a film. It’s got one great performance, but every other aspect of this film felt inauthentic and forced, resulting in a very bad movie. I don’t know how no one took Fanning and Holbrook aside to reprogram their emotional circuits, because they’re the definition of robotic and they were boring to watch. The word chemistry is the furthest thing that could describe what those two had, if they had anything at all. There’s melodrama galore and you’re supposed to feel bad for everyone, but I wasn’t buying any of it. This is an easy skip and though you won’t get to see Olsen’s excellence, you should just find any other movie with her in it because it won’t be nearly as bad as this one.
Very Good Girls Trailer