Movie Review: The Virgin Suicides

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
The Virgin Suicides written and directed by Sofia Coppola is the last of my reports on this director's so called trilogy on teenage women. Upon seeing all three films, including Marie Antoinette and Lost in Translation the conclusion of my report for Movie Magazine is that the latter film was more about Bill Murray's Bob and his middle age crisis than teenage girls. Coppola's debut film The Virgin Suicides most clearly fits Coppola's theme. Five young teenage girls growing up in the 70’s are controlled and supervised by the devout Catholic Mrs. Lisbon played by Kathleen Turner and her passive husband, Ronald, a high school teacher played by James Wood.
When Cecile Lisbon commits suicide she becomes the focus of a local media campaign. The death causes the family to retreat into its already full-blown dysfunctionalism with bad parenting and repression.
Lux played by Kirsten Dunst is the most rebellious of the girls. She is chosen the high school prom queen and the king is Trip Fontaine played by Josh Hartnett, the football star and most popular boy on campus. He is her date and has fallen for her. After she returns home late from the prom dance, all four of the girls are taken out of high school and sequestered, and forced to burn their LPs. They send out signals for help to four high school boys, who manage to get notes to them, play symbolic tunes from 45 rpms over their phone and using a secret code with house lights as the boys watch on their telescope planted across the street. Coppola’s direction is refined with a clever eye for surprising detail that is evident in her two other films. The boys send away for travel magazines like the girls and fantasize about shared trips where Cecile is still alive with their imagination shown in several photographs. Coppola’s depiction of blonde blue-eyed girls in an upper class white suburban neighborhood is like a gaudy picture postcard, with carefully chosen interiors, props and costumes. The conclusion of the film pumps up the volume on the theme perhaps in frantic pursuit of a compelling ending. A strange green pollution has poisoned the air and the neighborhood guests arrive at a posh party in gas masks. Refreshments consist of green champagne and ice cream. The scene recalls the desserts in Marie Antoinette. The one thing that we as spectators do know seems to escape these otherwise clever boys: why did the girls all commit suicide? In addition to the suffocation of the suburbs and home life, the broken romantic dreams and forced seclusion and repression of their live force, what is left for them? This rather obvious answer seems almost comical when spoken in voice over by the narrator of the film, Giovanni Ribisi. Also quite perplexing is the placement of Trip Fontaine as another man who recalls why he left Lux on the night of the prom - the beginning of the end for the girls. There is no mystery to The Virgin Suicides. After the fact came the claim of a trilogy but more to the truth, the lives of young women is something that Coppola seems to know how to tell well.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
More Information:
The Virgin Suicides
USA - 1999