The Virgin SuicidesMay 12, 2000
A group of male friends become obsessed with a group of mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents after one of them commits suicide.
Release Year: 1999
Rating: 7.2/10 (63,240 voted)
Critic's Score: 76/100
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, James Woods
The lives of an eclectic group of men who live in an affluent American suburb in the '70s are forever changed by their obsession with five doomed sisters.
Writers: Jeffrey Eugenides, Sofia Coppola
Adult Trip Fontaine
(as Michael Pare)
(as Anthony Desimone)
Love Sex Passion Fear Obsession
Paramount Classics [United States] |
Paramount Classics [United States] (Obsession Design) |
Release Date: 12 May 2000
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $235,122
(23 April 2000)
(27 December 2000)
Did You Know?
Thurston Moore of the band Sonic Youth originally gave the book to Sofia Coppola. After reading it she decided to make it into a movie.
When the girls are locked up in their house, the front lawn is slowly covered with brown leaves to show the passing of several weeks. However, there is only one tree on the front lawn, and its leaves are green. The surrounding trees are also green and none of them show evidence of falling leaves.
[voiceover, reading from her diary]
The trees, like lungs, filling with air. My sister – the mean one – pulling my hair.
Captures the Dark Comedy and Lyric Poetry of the Book
I'm uncertain why the daughter of a Hollywood icon would select as her first
director effort a nearly unfilmable book of linguistic time bombs and nearly
unspeakable tragedy. Jeffrey Eugenides's book The Virgin Suicides is one of
the underappreciated gems of the 1990s and surely Sophia Coppola must have
known that the critics would have it out for anything she did (see reviews
listed under "acting: Part 3, The Godfather"). So Coppola, daughter of
Francis Ford, decided to do something unexpected: She made a gem of a movie
that's easy to like and complex enough to savour.
Taking place "25 years ago" in "Michigan," The Virgin Suicides tells the
story of a group of teenage boys and the Lisbon sisters, whose suicides
changed them forever. The book is told with a rather unique choral narrator
(the entire story is in the first person plural) which makes it clear that
the focus of the story is not the Lisbons, but the boys and their attempts
to restructure the events of what must have been their final summer of
innocence. Similarly, the film features extensive voice-overs, culled from
the book, coming from an unidentified member (or members) of the gang. You
might wonder why you're never able to distinguish between any of the four or
five or six males who wander through the story, or why at least several of
the Lisbon girls also blend together, but rest assured it's intentional. The
Virgin Suicides is very much about a baffled collective.
The movie begins with the first suicide attempt of the youngest Lisbon girl.
When the doctor examining her asks why should would try to kill herself she
offers the simple response, "Obviously, Doctor, you have never been a
thirteen year old girl." The book and film are both really about men and how
incapable we are of understand what it's like to be a thirteen year old girl
or a thirty year old woman or really anything in between. And what's even
more frustrating is the fact that women seem to understand men so
devastatingly well (a trait perfectly personified in Kirsten Dunst's
portrayal of middle sister Lux). The narrative such as it is marches
inexorably through the gradual awakening of the narrators and the inevitable
realization that they never knew anything.
Coppola, who also adapted the screenplay, makes decent use of the book's two
metaphorical subplots — an outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease and a cemetery
worker's strike. The rot of suburban life lies at the core of this story and
Coppola wisely never overplays her hand. She loves using mythic imagery,
generally revolving around Dunst, an actress beginning to produce the kind
of resume that speaks of longevity. Coppola's background in costuming is
also evident, displaying the decadence and tackiness of the observing
characters, contrasted with the spare Puritainism of the
Coppola gets mostly good performances from the young generation of her cast.
As the only two characters to get individual notice, Dunst and Josh Hartnett
do excellent work. She's the animal core of the film and he perfectly
captures the perplexed, corrupted purity of the male side of the story.
Playing against type, James Woods is excellent as the Lisbon's introverted
henpecked father and Kathleen Turner is effectively scary as their
The film is also aided by some wonderful technical work including Jasna
Stefanovic's nostalgic, but never cutesy production design and Edward
Lachman's versatile cinematography. The soundtrack by the French band Air is
also notable, mixed with various hit songs from the period.
The Virgin Suicides has perhaps too many moments of whimsy, where it seems
too devoted to its source, even when the material doesn't translate
properly. But still, it's the moments of magic — the Lisbon girls prom, an
eerie family party, and phone conversation spoken only with records — that
stand out. I'd give this one an 8/10.