Very Good Girls is a film one wants to like but can’t. It just doesn’t work. Lifelong friends Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olsen) have just graduated from their Brooklyn high school. Lilly is headed to Yale, Gerri is a budding songwriter, and both are virgins. Gerri develops a crush on David (Boyd Holbrook), a photographer-waiter who seduces Lilly, leading to a summertime romance she’s afraid to reveal.
Very Good Girls is the directorial debut of Naomi Foner, whose Oscar-nominated script for Running on Empty (1988), starring the late River Phoenix, is a thing of beauty. At age 68, Foner has stepped behind the camera, which is great, but she’s written herself a script that’s painfully trite.
Lilly’s mother (Ellen Barkin) is a shrewish psychiatrist, and her father (Clark Gregg) a womanizing doctor, while Gerri’s folks (Richard Dreyfuss and Demi Moore) are old-school hippies.
Pairing Dreyfuss with Moore and Barkin with Gregg is indicative of a film that feels as if it had been cast with available friends instead of actors who fit the roles.
Fanning and Olsen work hard, but there’s not much they can do with Lilly and Gerri, who mostly stand around, waiting for the handsome man to look their way.