Screenwriter-turned-director Naomi Foner aims to capture what she calls "mythic" memories in her coming-of-age story "Very Good Girls." But little resonates as persuasive, let alone memorable, in the underwhelming sexual-awakening exploits of two Brooklyn friends. Despite a finely wrought lead performance by Dakota Fanning, the drama feels more like the stuff of a mild — and dated — YA novel than an involving exploration of female experience.
As BFFs Lilly and Gerri, Fanning and
But it's Lilly he goes for, using his photography — and, in a cringe-inducing moment, Sylvia Plath's poetry — to seduce her. In a baffling turn of events that feels like something out of another era, they hide their ensuing relationship from Gerri, setting up a lukewarm chain reaction of betrayal and redemption.
Foner, who wrote the keenly observed "Running on Empty," has assembled and mostly wasted an impressive supporting cast, including her son-in-law, Peter Sarsgaard, and, as parental-unit caricatures, Clark Gregg, Ellen Barkin, Richard Dreyfuss and Demi Moore.
Around the smooth edges are glints of something sharper: the sexual precociousness that Catherine Breillat has dramatized indelibly in such films as "36 Fillette." Foner's smart/naïve good girls retreat to safer territory, where the reassuring center does not hold. It rings hollow.
"Very Good Girls."
MPAA rating: R for language and sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.