'The Virgin Suicides' is a beautiful, understated, and tragic drama, punctuated by great rock music of the late '70s, and featuring terrific performances, particularly by Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartlett, and a nearly unrecognizable Kathleen Turner. What makes the film even more remarkable is that it is the directorial debut by Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, Sofia, best known prior to this by her less-than-stellar performance in 'Godfather 3'! Her sensitivity with this material establishes her as a director to be reckoned with, and a true talent!
The film focuses on the five Lisbon sisters, beautiful, yet repressed by a religious and overly protective mother (Turner), who encourages their intellectual growth, but tries to block any sexual or emotional stirrings. The girls turn their passions into other channels, bonding tightly with one another, and viewing the world as outsiders. When the youngest attempts, then succeeds at killing herself, the family gains an unwanted notoriety, and a group of local boys begin to worship the remaining sisters from afar, gathering materials, and creating a fantasy world about them.
Lux, the most beautiful and free-spirited of the sisters (Dunst), attracts the attentions of the most popular boy in school, Tripp (Hartnett), who confuses raging hormones with love, and begins a campaign to 'have' her. Winning the respect of their father (James Woods, in another excellent 'against-type' portrayal), he succeeds in wearing the mother down, and arranges 'dates' for the sisters, so he can take Lux to the Homecoming Dance. The party provides the springboard for the tragedy that gives the film its name, and catapults the girls into icons that the boys who admire them can never forget.
There are many reasons to buy this film; Coppola's understanding of how boys and girls interact, and her sure touch with their issues about sexuality; Kirsten Dunst's best performance to date, conveying both sweetness, and barely suppressed erotic desire; Kathleen Turner's breakthrough as a character actress, sacrificing her glamorous persona for a stocky and frumpy matron. There are some excellent cameos, as well, particularly Danny DeVito as a clueless psychiatrist, Scott Glenn as a family priest who offers platitudes instead of comfort, and Michael Paré as an older Tripp, reminiscing about Lux, and their 'love'.
This is a very special film, one that you will not soon forget! I highly recommend it!
on December 24, 2000
I have to disagree with "flickjunkie". I thought this movie was really good. The acting was wonderful throughout and the scenes were gorgeous.
The suicides were a by product. The movie is about growing up, first loves, obsession and oppression. The statement that suicides are predictable and obvious, thus preventable is ridiculous. That's the point.
But, back to my original statement. The Book! I was fortunate enough to have read the book before seeing the movie. The book gives insight that the movie does not. Characters and motivation are more spelled out for those who need it. Read the book and then watch or rewatch the movie. Things will be more clear, background wise and your movie experience will be more enjoyable.
But for all intents and purposes this is an excellent movie. It boasts an amazing cast and is moving and haunting.
on September 3, 2003
"The Virgin Suicides" is a powerful and finely nuanced movie. The plot centers on five beautiful blonde sisters, "The Lisbon Sisters," who live with their overly protective parents in an upscale suburb of Detroit. The narrative is told from the vantage point of an awkward teenage male, now grown up, who lived near them. He and his friends were mesmerized by them and years later still talk about them and sift through their memorabilia of them.
The movie begins with the first two suicide attempts of the youngest sister Cecilia, with the second one being successful. It then traces the impact of her death on her family and her neighbors-with the parents becoming even more protective of their four surviving daughters. Trouble though, comes from Luz, now the youngest and the most vibrant and flirtatious. She falls for the school hunk-and he for her-and with her sisters and their escorts goes to the homecoming dance. This proves to be fatal for all involved.
Sofia Coppola did an amazing job with this movie for a first time director. She focuses on small details-for example, the bracelets that cover the scarred wrists of Cecilia after her first suicide attempt-that tell so much. She pulled an outstanding performance out of Kirsten Dunst who played Luz. She also compiled an amazing soundtrack and score.
I would recommend this movie for those who enjoy "arty" serious films, 70's films, and women-themed movies.It is definitely not a "feel good" movie-but it will stay with you far longer than most other films.
on April 6, 2004
This film is not nearly as moving as the book of the same title, which captures youth as a much more nuanced, ethereal time (not to mention developing the story so well that it lingers, like a Polaroid picture, long after the color has filled in). But it is a fine adaptation, filled with textured performances and much of the metaphoric depth of the novel (the fish flies, the accumulation of material goods and their subsequent abandonment, etc). My one complaint is not with the film itself but one of the reviews posted above--from Kayla, who has transposed, word for word, the review of the film written by web reviewer James Berardinelli (found easily on Rotten Tomatoes and other sites). It's amazing that people on this site are willing to plagarize for the sake of ratings--and disturbing, too, that others are buying products based on reviews of products that the posting "reviewer" may or may not have used/seen/read in the first place. But so much for those inclined to artistic theft--check the film out, and the book as well; they're both of the highest quality.
on November 14, 2005
I remember reading lackluster reviews of "The Virgin Suicides" when it first came out, but many people have praised it profusely since then, so I expected to be pleasantly surprised when I recently gave it a first viewing. I was not. Here's the movie in a nutshell (mild spoilers):
Gauzy shots of striking blonde girls in 70's garb. They're very mysterious. The neighborhood boys are obsessed with these mysterious girls, who are sheltered by their overprotective parents. One of the girls, played by Kirsten Dunst, exhibits some personality and takes up with a young rogue played by Josh Hartnett. Besides the cool soundtrack, Hartnett is the only memorable part of the movie. The overprotective mother overreacts. The sisters remain mysterious. And so on.
At least with Sofia Coppola's second movie "Lost in Translation", there are a couple of fleshed-out characters and sort-of a plot to go along with the mood. In "Virgin Suicides", a pervasive atmosphere is established by long shots in soft lighting and wistful music, but there is very little else to chew on. I waited the whole movie for something interesting to happen. Some reviewers wrote that the movie isn't about the girls at all, but the boys' obsession with them and their lust for the unattainable, but the boys are also very loosely drawn. They're fascinated, and we're supposed to be too, but the girls have to BE fascinating -- it's not enough to just repeat that they're mysterious and keep showing them in slow takes.
I didn't even need an explanation or a tidy wrap-up -- if I see a movie like "Mulholland Drive", a film which also relies a lot on atmosphere and doesn't explain itself, I can at least walk out knowing I saw something interesting and perhaps profound. After "Virgin Suicides" I felt like I'd just watched a two-hour tampon commercial.
Based upon the best-selling novel of the same name, this is an intriguing film that showcases the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola, daughter of revered director Francis Coppola. She does a fairly masterful job, indicative of the fact that the apple appears not to have fallen far from the tree. Ms. Coppola exacts tight, well-nuanced performances from the stellar cast, creating an interesting and quirky little gem of a film.
The crux of the film takes place in the mid-nineteen seventies in a suburban town in Michigan and is centered upon the lovely Lisbon sisters. Originally five in number, one takes a header out the window in a successful suicide attempt, leaving the four older ones to continue to live with their repressive parents. This suicide garners press attention, and the Lisbon sister arouse the curiosity of the local teenage boys, become goddesses upon whom their adolescent sexual curiosity falls. In their eyes, the surviving Lisbon sisters are the local "It" girls.
Their father (James Woods), a teacher in the local high school, seems dominated by his wife (Kathleen Turner), who as a mother has certain failings. She is quite repressive, and, while instilling in her daughters intellectual curiosity, she does all she can to ensure that they become stunted emotionally, crushing their budding sexuality by any means necessary, no matter how draconian. Still, the oldest one, Lux (Kirsten Dunst) manages to nurture a crush on Trip (Josh Harnett), the dreamy high school football quarter back, who also has a thing for her.
Trip corners Mr. Lisbon at school one day and tells him that he wishes to take Lux to the homecoming dance. Trip asserts that his intentions are honorable and that, moreover, he would ensures that all the sisters would have a date for the dance, which they could all attend together. He persuades Mr. Lisbon to discuss the possibility with his wife. She reluctantly agrees, after all, their father will be chaperoning the dance, but makes them wear girlish dresses that hang like sacks on them. Still, the girls do not let this fashion faux pas diminish their excitement about going to the homecoming dance. They do not realize that it would be the beginning of the end for them.
The dance itself is a success, as Lux and Trip are crowned the homecoming dance king and queen. What starts out as a fairytale date, however, ends up a disaster, when Trip fails to bring Lux home at the appointed hour. Taking a detour to the local football field, Trip and Lux end up doing what a lot of teenagers do when they think that they are in love. It turns out to be less than idyllic and a disillusioned Lux returns home alone the next morning, Even though the others returned home as promised, mommy dearest punishes them all, keeping them imprisoned in their home and sequestered from friends and classmates, forbidden to even attend school.
As the Lisbon sisters draw in upon themselves, they become even more of a curiosity for the local teenage boys. In their eyes, these surviving Lisbon sisters are made more mysterious and alluring by their very sequestration, achieving almost iconic status. It is through them that the Lisbon girls manage to retain a semblance of a normal life, communicating with them oftentimes through the music that teenagers share over that instrument that serves to bind teenagers, the telephone. Still this is not normal congress in the context in which it occurs, and the Lisbon girls turn melancholy. Even so, however, the final denouement is sure to shock the viewer.
This film is perfectly cast, and excellent, finely nuanced performances are given by the entire cast. While it is not a film that everyone will enjoy, as it is quite quirky, those who like films with a slight twist to them will enjoy this off-beat, edgy film.
Apparently those who cannot act, can direct. The legendary bad performance Sofia Coppola turned in for her father's "The Godfather, Part III," will now be reduced to being the prelude to what should be a stunning career as a director. Currently nominated for Oscars for both writing and directing Best Picture nominee "Lost in Translation," Coppola already proved her competence behind the camera in her first full-length feature, "The Virgin Suicides" (She previously made a 14-minute short, "Lick the Star"). They will be arguing heredity versus environment on Sofia Coppola for the next half-century.
As our story begins, we are informed by the film's narrator (Giovanni Ribisi) that the first of the Lisbon sisters to attempt suicide, was the youngest, Cecilia (Hannah Hall). Told by the doctor that she is not old enough to know how bad life gets, Cecilia calmly responds, "Obviously, Doctor, you've never been a thirteen year old girl." Having watched "Thirteen" this week, I know bad that age can be, but that is not what "The Virgin Suicides" are about. This film is more about what the boys in the neighborhood thought about the Lisbon sisters than what drove them to suicide.
Strangely enough, "The Virgin Suicides" is not a black comedy, although there are a few moments along those lines, mostly supplied by the adults in the narrative. The boys in the neighborhood worship the Lisbon sisters as icons of both feminine beauty and mystery, especially Lux (Kirsten Dunst), the second youngest of the quintet and the one who is most determined to have done some living before she dies.
There is a metaphor at work big time in "The Virgin Suicides," because the Lisbon sisters might kill themselves, but the ideal they represented to the boys in the neighborhood will live forever. Coppola creates a wonderful romantic scene when the girls are pulled from school and shut up in their house in maximum security isolation by their mother (Kathleen Turner) after the death of Cecilia. The boys and girls exchange phone calls in which they play songs from their favorites records, never saying a word, but communicating a lot of emotions in their selections. What impresses you about Coppola's direction in this film is that she keeps the story and her camera under control. There really are not big moments in this film, just skillfully crafted small ones.
The cast also features James Woods as the girls' father, Scott Glenn as Father Moody, and Danny Devito as Dr. Horniker. You get the feeling that daddy's name might have gotten them to read the script at which point the script sold them on participating in this one. Josh Hartnett plays Trip Fontaine, the one boy in the neighborhood who grows up to make a move for Lux (and who grows up to be played by Michael Paré). This 1999 film was adapted by Coppola from the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, which supposedly is Coppola's favorite book. "Lost in Translation" was an original story and script, so Coppola has already moved to the next level. On the basis of these first two films, we certainly have to look forward to what she comes up with next, because Coppola is getting off to a great start behind the camera.
on November 3, 2002
The virgin suicides is a perfectly executed film based on jeffery eugenedes's novel. Centered upon four neighborhood boy's obssesion with the five lisbon girls, an unknown narrator (assumed to be one of the boys themselves) relates the fateful suicides of the girls. Starting with Cecilia, the youngest (only 13), and ending with a mass suicide of the remaining four girls almost a year later, the movie explores the unknown reasons as why these girls ended their lives. Controlled by a religous and all powerful mother (played by Kathleen Turner) who shuts the girls up after a mistake by Lux, the youngest after Cecilia's eventful suicide, is often seen as the reason for her daughter's death's. Whatever the reason, it is meant to be unknown. No matter how much evidence is gathered by the boys and how it is put together, none of them can figure it out. Had I been forced to choose one word to describe the movie, I would say it was perfect. Sofia Coppola has kept the raw beauty of the book while managing to magically translate it to film. While many of my favorite books have been slaughtered on the screen, this one keeps it's emotion. The story's humanity is over-powering.
on August 8, 2014
The film adaptation of the novel The Virgin Suicides is an interesting little enigma, as may be the book (I have not yet read it but now that I've seen the film, I plan to). There are so many unanswered questions, and yet there are so many little hints that director Sofia Coppola throws in there to either help you answer the questions or to just promote further speculation.
So the plot basically follows these five sisters of an overly repressive household where a deeper evil is maybe, possibly, lurking under the surface - or are these girls just naturally depressed as either a) a result of their upbringing b) a chemical issue c) none of the above? That's left to you to decide.
Youngest sister Cecelia starts us off on the film's appropriate tone by trying, and failing, to commit suicide by slitting her wrists, only to succeed mere moments later by throwing herself out of her bedroom window during a chaperoned party her parents throw for her to make her feel better. Irony. Though, "irony" probably isn't the most appropriate word, since she dies by impaling herself on the iron fence that lines the home outside.
From there, you may expect to see the rest of the sisters gradually off themselves one by one - after all, the biggest spoiler *is* in the title of the movie. However, we instead follow their process of grieving over their sister, and we see their parents tighten the noose around their necks until they can no longer breathe (sorry, Bonnie).
Lux (Kirsten Dunst, in one of her least annoying roles) strikes up a passionate relationship with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) that's intense teenage lust at its finest. We see him talk to the camera about her later on in life, reminiscing about how she "drove him crazy" and how he really did love her, yet after they sleep together, he just abandons her and can't explain why.
Their relationship, however brief, both a) causes us to have even more questions (why did he leave her? How can it be the "virgin" suicides if Lux isn't a virgin?) and b) essentially is the beginning of the end of the sisters' lives, as Mom (Kathleen Turner) freaks out, pulls them all out of school, and turns them into recluses who eventually, in one fell swoop at the end of the movie, all kill themselves together.
Was it a suicide pact? We don't know. It seems like one, but it's never explicitly stated. Why did the girls want the boys across the street to witness it? Was it because they were the only ones they ever truly connected with? Did the fact that they were all girls and have the last name "Lisbon," which is close to "lesbian," mean anything?
One thing's for sure - Coppola knows how to use music to set the scene, and I don't just mean that cool scene where the girls and guys express their feelings to each other through records. I mean how she'll put scary, ominous music behind a scene that doesn't play out that way.
There are so many little cues in the film - what is she trying to tell us with them? Like the fallen number on the front door. And did the girls' poses in the pre-prom picture signify anything in particular? It seems weird that Lux would notice "a leak" that never before or after was mentioned. I'm sure that pose was planned - I just can't figure out why.
And what drove these girls to the ultimate extreme of suicide? My first thought was that their parents may have abused them (beyond what we already know). Especially when Dad (James Woods) went into Cecelia's dark room - did that strike anyone else as weird? He may not have been a perv, but he was certainly coming undone, that's for sure, as is evidenced by his talking to the plants at school.
on June 15, 2001
It's pretty easy to think that all modern cinema, well, .... When the top drawers are either little-to-no-story special effects-a-thons or toilet humoured shock comedies, it seems that either the audience or the directors are just getting less and less intellectual. Then I saw a short montage of scenes for Sophia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, and I knew that this was one film that had to be more than "Just Okay". The Virgin Suicides is more than just a look at five teen girls growing up in 1976, but rather a glimps of the tyranny and corruption that lie in middle-American suburbia. Kirsten Dunst (Lux) and Hannah Hall (Cecelia) give some of the finest acting job's I have seen in a very long time, this and the still have yet to enter their 20's (pretty big insult to the so-called "actors" in Hollywood today). Also James Woods and Kathleen Turner's portrayal's as the Lisbon parents are good reminders that just because an actor or actress isn't with the "Hollywood Elite" anymore, doesn't mean that they still outshine all other younger and "hipper" actors and actress's of today.
Everything about the film is gripping, from the story of Cecelia, to smaller scenes (case and point when Mrs. Lisbon makes Lux burn all her rock records, pretty intense to a music lover like me). The best aspect of the film is definitely the score. Air does a fine job of creating the somber and surrealistic mood of the movie.
Not since Dazed and Confused have I watched a film so many times back to back, I strongly reccomend this film to anybody that is bored and fed up with the lackluster films that Hollywood is pumping out today.