During the summer before they leave for college, two best friends fall for the same guy in the really bad drama “Very Good Girls,” which marks the feature directing debut of onetime exceptional scribe Naomi Foner (“Running on Empty”). With a screenplay lacking the freshness and credibility of Foner’s best work, this all-around misfire saddles a miscast group of name thesps (including Foner’s son-in-law Peter Sarsgaard) with some strikingly awful costume design. With poor word of mouth from the Sundance world preem, this looking-for-distribution indie may go directly to home formats.Despite their glaringly obvious difference in age, leads Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen play the only virgins left in their high-school graduating class. For fun, Lily (Fanning) and Gerri (Olsen) enjoy silly stunts like rushing into the water at Brighton Beach stark naked. Biking their way home from this dopey adventure, they practically run over hunky ice-cream salesman/photographer David (thirtysomething Boyd Holbrook, who looks younger, but not that much). While Gerri declares herself smitten, it’s alabaster-pale Lily who catches his eye. Lily comes from a repressed WASP home, where her shrill, controlling mother (Ellen Barkin, unrecognizable in a not-good way) kicks out her unfaithful doctor father (the ever-chipper Clark Gregg), who looks at least a decade younger than his wife. At Gerri’s house, the parental combo is even more risible, with a white-haired Richard Dreyfuss playing the garrulous, lefty dad and slim hippie chick Demi Moore cast as her mom. Seduced by David’s arty photographs (which he pastes, graffiti-like, around town), his fondness for Sylvia Plath poetry, and his six-pack abs, Lily loses her virginity to him on her garage floor. Although she might be book-smart (she is supposedly off to Yale in the autumn), she lacks the good sense to tell Gerri what’s going on, despite the fact her buddy is still mooning over the guy. When Gerri suffers a terrible loss, Lily tries to make it up to her by sending David her way, a move that backfires badly. The screenplay is so vapid and cliched, and the casting so terrible, that viewers may wind up entertaining themselves with other thoughts: For instance, how can Fanning be so unnaturally pale? What SPF of sunscreen must she have to wear in the beach scenes? And doesn’t Olsen strikingly resemble Foner’s daughter Maggie Gyllenhaal in her “Secretary” days? The faux-touching finale merely offers the girls another chance to strip. Tech package is just so-so, with the costume choices as ill judged as the casting.
A Herrick Entertainment presentation of a Herrick Entertainment, Groundswell Prods. production. (International sales: CAA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Norton Herrick, Michael London, Mary Jane Skalski, Janice Williams. Executive producers, Peter Graves, Lee Clay, Hawk Koch, Gale Anne Hurd. Directed, written by Naomi Foner.
Camera (color, HD), Bobby Bukowski; editor, Andrew Hafitz; music, Jenny Lewis; production designer, Sharon Lomofsky; art director, Lisa Myers; costume designer, David Tabbert; sound (Dolby Digital), Jeff Pullman; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Steven Tollen, Coll Anderson; sound effects editor, Sean Garnheart; associate producers, Joe Surace, Bonnie Bentley; visual effects supervisor, Jake Braver; casting, Avy Kaufman. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 22, 2013. Running time: 90 MIN.
Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Boyd Holbrook, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin, Clark Gregg, Peter Sarsgaard.