The story is one you've heard before. And if you're a girl, you've probably lived it. The summer after high school graduation, two best friends' relationship is tested when they fall for the same boy. Very Good Girls marks the directorial debut for Naomi Foner, longtime screenwriter (and longtime mother of Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal). Naomi gives this simple, familiar tale depth and beauty -- and brilliant young actresses Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen bring said "good girls" to life in honest, contained performances.
The story opens on New York's Brighton Beach where free spirit Gerry (Elizabeth) coaxes her introverted best friend Lilly (Dakota) into skinny dipping in front a sea (heh) of onlookers. On that same perfect summer afternoon, they happen upon an ice cream stand and meet the brooding David (Boyd Holbrook). The girls both immediately fall for David (and when you see pictures of Boyd, you'll understand why). Gerry can't stop gushing to Lilly about David, but Lilly keeps her murual crush a secret. As Gerry tries to win his affection, David pursues Lilly (unbeknownst to Gerry). Without giving too much away, you can guess that things get a little messy.
Writer/Director Naomi Foner poses with cast Elizabeth Olsen, Dakota Fanning and Boyd Holbrook at the Sundance Film Festival
The film has been met with mixed reviews so far, but we noticed that most of all-out bad reviews have been written by men. Not to be harsh, guys, but maybe you need to tap into your feminine side because for us Hollywire girls, Very Good Girls hit so close to home. Too close, even. Sure, the guy who comes between the girls is cliché — he's a street artist that lives in a borrowed loft with dreams of backpacking through Europe. We know, we know. But the story isn't called "Very Hot Boy." It's about the girls.
Friendship at that age is so complicated and the film adeptly explores the inner struggles of girls on the brink of adulthood, with family dynamics being turned on their head and their whole lives set to change as they know it. These girls are discovering their sexuality, their values, their needs — and they have to do it on their own. The intricate dynamic of female best friends is one that is so hard to capture — and Dakota and Liz — led by Naomi Foner--master it. The handheld cinematography and the lingering gives the audience a raw look into the story and Dakota's open, vulnerable lead performance takes us on her intimate emotional journey.
The film isn't trying to be anything more than the story of a girl figuring out who she wants to be and what is important to her — and making all the mistakes she must to figure all of that out. It's a familiar story, sure, but it's one that rarely gets seen from a woman's perspective and we're happy it's being told.
Bonus: Jenny Lewis composed the music for the film, and her melodic, intimate, feminine style couldn't set a better tone for this film. We can't wait for the soundtrack.
Double bonus: We got a chance to chat with Dakota at the Sundance premiere this week and she talked to us about her friendship with Liz and being a protective older sister to Elle. Take a look at our exclusive interview!
Are you excited to see Very Good Girls? Do you think Dakota and Liz make a good team?
Photos Courtesy of Getty Images