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The Virgin Suicides (1999)

  Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by: Sofia Coppola, Jeffrey Eugenides
Starring: A.J. Cook, Kirsten Dunst, Hanna R. Hall, Josh Hartnett, Leslie Hayman, Chelse Swain, Kathleen Turner, James Woods
Links: The Virgin Suicides on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

The Virgin Suicides (1999) is also mentioned in em_fiction's review of Lost in Translation (2003).

"If tragedy were something beautiful" - a review by em_fiction

"No one could understand how Mrs. Lisbon and Mr. Lisbon, our math teacher, could produce such beautiful creatures."

A 70s American suburban neighbourhood unfolds the tragic tale of the Lisbon sisters. Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner) and Mr. Lisbon (James Woods) are ordinary, decent, hardworking parents who've gone that little extra step to protect their girls - Mary (A.J. Cook), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Therese (Leslie Hayman), Bonnie (Chelse Swain) and Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall). As a result, the sisters are fairly secluded, bewildering neighbouring teenage boys who all are overcome by their beauty and are madly in love with them.

Giovanni Ribisi does the narration from the point of view of the maturing boys. The story develops with the boys' unravelling of the mysteries behind the Lisbon girls, starting with Cecilia's diary. The irony is that the isolation doesn't seclude the girls - it only brings about fascination and, well, pulls the boys even closer. We also meet Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), a good-looking pothead who's interested in Lux. He steals Lux's heart and becomes the key to melting away the walls that have encapsulated the girls for so long.

Sofia Coppola uses documentarian-like techniques to unfold this beautiful but sad narrative. Giovanni Ribisi's narration is used superbly, representing the boys' experiences as the main perspective of the film. His voice has a subtle tone which shapes the rather bleak and sometimes haunting atmosphere. The narration has depth, meaning and sophistication - characteristics somewhat similar to well-written poetry. There is also the odd use of the occasional interviewer-less interview, particularly with the aged Trip Fontaine (Michael Paré) who recounts his time with Lux. It was a wise decision to convey the story of The Virgin Suicides in a unique documentary style, especially when it's been handled with extensive skill. Don't get me wrong, it's not a mockumentary, but there are obvious influences in the storytelling.

Performances are excellent all around, particularly the parents. James Woods does a stunning job as an everyday father. The young actresses playing the sisters actually look like sisters, thank God. The boys, despite being the most significant point of view, are probably the least developed characters in the entire film. It's understandable though, Sofia probably wanted the focus to remain on the sisters. Josh Hartnett was my only problem with the film - I thought Trip was a real prick.

Sofia has toned the film with a soft beige colour to form the warm, innocent surface, but then taints it with the tragic occurrences in the Lisbon home. The film is as morbid as its title, and the last few lines are narrated delicately, but most powerfully, to infuse the solemn ending. The Virgin Suicides is an extremely solid effort for a debut film, but doesn't reach the standards of Coppola's next film, Lost in Translation (2003).

em_fiction gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 9 Dec 2003

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Number of reviews: 1
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Reader comments

  1. this is one of the few movies that i would say is just the best. there's nothing so grand about it in the first place and yet it got you! it makes you see life in a different angle. tragedy

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from lady marie duroy on Sun 27 Feb 2005 03:07 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (1 rating)

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