The Virgin Suicides
- James Woods as Ronald Lisbon
- Kathleen Turner as Sara Lisbon
- Kirsten Dunst as Lux Lisbon
- Josh Hartnett as Trip Fontaine
- A.J. Cook as Mary Lisbon
- Hanna R. Hall as Cecilia Lisbon
- Leslie Hayman as Therese Lisbon
- Chelse Swain as Bonnie Lisbon
- Jonathan Tucker as Tim Winer
- Noah Shebib as Parkie Denton
- Anthony DeSimone as Chase Buell
- Lee Kagan as David Barker
- Giovanni Ribisi as Narrator
The Virgin Suicides marks the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola. Based on the acclaimed novel, it is a poignant, lyrical and mysterious tale of teenage awkwardness and the effects that mystery has on the mind for years. Featuring a haunting score by Air and evocative cinematography, it perfectly captures the conflicted feelings of blossoming sexual attraction and the alienation of teenage years.
Set in a 1970’s Michigan suburb, the plot focuses on a group of boys who are entranced by the five beautiful Lisbon sisters; Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Therese and Mary . Although they don’t physically know any of them, the boys dream up fantasies about them because of the mystery surrounding them. Presided over by strict, suffocating parents, the girls are the intangible desire of the boys who can’t seem to fathom them. The film is narrated in flashback by one of the boys who is still plagued by memories of the sisters and still looking for answers as to why each of them took their own lives. After the youngest daughter, Cecilia finally succeeds in killing herself by impaling herself on the railings outside, the mother and father of the girls begin to shelter their daughters from the outside world, further enhancing the enigmatic air that hangs over them. Complications arise when the school heart-throb Trip Fontaine falls for the sexually precocious Lux and the girls are allowed to attend the usually forbidden homecoming dance. The actions of their over-protective parents leads the girls into isolation and desperation, yet they still are in the thoughts of the boys who the spell has been cast on. What emerges is a bittersweet examination of girls growing up into women and the mystique surrounding the seemingly untouchable.
Sofia Coppola perfectly conjures up the mystical tale, showing how much the tragic, flaxen-haired beauties had an effect on the boys. As the narrator tells us, they are still looking for an answer after almost 20 years. Through the use of dream sequences, stunningly shot and evocatively scored, the sisters become ethereal beings presiding over the burgeoning attraction of these boys. Coppola’s script pierces to the heart of teenage angst with a reflective eye and also manages to examine the difficult theme of suicide in an effective way, rather than sugar-coating it. Music plays an integral part in the film, especially adding to the emotional impact is a stunning score by Air. The scene in which the isolated sisters communicate with the boys by playing records over the phone is moving in its look at the power of unspoken words and how music is an almost universal language. Out of the sisters, Lux is the most interesting, mainly because of Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of a young sexually precocious girl who rebels against her overbearing parents, She excellently conveys the pained expression of a pressured girl approaching womanhood, yet trapped in a cage intent on preserving her innocence. Turner and Woods turn in great performances as the parents who take strict to a whole new level. Josh Hartnett also stars as the popular guy who in adulthood regrets his treatment of the beautiful Lux.
Interestingly, we are never told the reason as to why the girls took their own lives, Coppola lets the audience decide this outcome. A reflective melancholy hangs over the film, heightened by the narrator’s voice that combines a wide-eyed youthful quality but a pensive and mature sadness. Because of these ambiguities, The Virgin Suicides makes for a starting but dreamlike watch as we watch the sister’s influence on the boys and how to the day they still haunt them like muses from myth.
Evocative, intense and profound, The Virgin Suicides is a true testament to Coppola’s sensitive direction that lets the audience follow the lives of these mysterious girls and the boys forever plagued by their memory with a childlike wonder but a certain amount of time for rumination.