The Virgin Suicides (film)
|The Virgin Suicides|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sofia Coppola|
|Produced by||Francis Ford Coppola
|Written by||Sofia Coppola|
|Based on||The Virgin Suicides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
|Narrated by||Giovanni Ribisi|
|Edited by||James Lyons
|Distributed by||Paramount Classics|
The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 American drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, produced by her father Francis Ford Coppola, starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, and A. J. Cook.
Based on the 1993 best selling debut novel of the same name by American author Jeffrey Eugenides, the film tells of the brief lives of five teenage sisters in a middle class suburb near the outskirts of Detroit during the 1970s. After the youngest sister makes an initial attempt at suicide, her sisters are put under close scrutiny by their parents, eventually being confined to the household, which leads to their increasingly depressive and isolated behaviour.
The story takes place in the suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the mid-1970s, as a group of neighborhood boys, now grown men acknowledging in voice-over (narrated by Giovanni Ribisi who speaks for the group as a whole) reflect upon their memories of the five Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17. Unattainable due to their Catholic and overprotective, authoritarian parents, math teacher Ronald (James Woods) and his homemaker wife (Kathleen Turner), the girls—Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A. J. Cook), Bonnie (Chelse Swain), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), and Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall)—are the enigma that fill the boys' conversations and dreams.
The film opens in the summer with the suicide attempt of the youngest sister, Cecilia, as she slits her wrist in a bath. After her parents allow her to throw a chaperoned basement party intended to make her feel better, Cecilia excuses herself and jumps out of her second story bedroom window, dying when she is impaled on an iron fence below. In the wake of her act, the Lisbon parents watch over their four remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family from the community and heightens air of mystery about the girls to the neighborhood boys in particular.
At the beginning of the new school year in the fall, Lux forms a secret and short-lived romance with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the school heartthrob. Trip comes over one night to the Lisbon residence in hopes of getting closer to Lux and watches television with the family. Soon Trip persuades Mr. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the upcoming Homecoming Dance by promising to provide dates for the other sisters, to go as a group. After winning Homecoming king and queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch the group and have sex on the school's football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep on the grass, and Trip, becoming disenchanted by Lux, abandons her. At dawn, Lux wakes up alone and has to take a taxi home.
Having broken curfew, Lux and her sisters are punished by a paranoid Mrs. Lisbon by being taken out of school. Unable to leave the house, the sisters contact the boys across the street by using light signals and sharing songs over the phone.
During this time, Lux rebels against her repression and becomes promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of her house late at night; the neighborhood boys spy and watch Lux from across the street. After weeks of confinement, the sisters leave a note for the boys. When the boys arrive that night, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. She invites them inside to wait for her sisters, while she goes to start the car.
Curious, the boys wander into the dark basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie's body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Horrified, they rush back upstairs only to stumble across the body of Mary in the kitchen. The boys realize that the girls had all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact: Bonnie hanged herself; Mary died by putting her head in the gas oven; Therese took an overdose of sleeping pills and Lux died of carbon monoxide poisoning when she left the car engine running in the garage.
Devastated by the suicides of their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon leave the neighborhood. Mr. Lisbon has a friend clean out the house and sell off the family belongings in a yard sale. Whatever didn't sell was put in the trash, including the family photos, which the neighborhood boys collect as mementos. The house is sold to a young couple from the Boston area. The adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing happened. The boys do not forget about the girls. As the film closes, the men acknowledge in voice-over that they had loved the girls, and that they will never know why the Lisbon sisters took their lives.
The film was generally well received by critics; it has a 76% Metacritic rating and a 76% Rotten Tomatoes rating. The New York Post heaped praise on the film: "It's hard to remember a film that mixes disparate, delicate ingredients with the subtlety and virtuosity of Sofia Coppola's brilliant The Virgin Suicides." The Philadelphia Inquirer outlined its attributes: "There's a melancholy sweetness here, a gentle humor that speaks to the angst and awkwardness of girls turning into women, and the awe of boys watching the transformation from afar."
In addition to original score composed for the film by Air, the film features songs by 1970s-era performers and five tracks from the 1990s by Sloan. A separate soundtrack album was released featuring music from Todd Rundgren, Steely Dan, Boston, Heart, Sloan, The Hollies, Al Green, Gilbert O'Sullivan, 10cc, Styx, and two tracks by Air (one previously recorded; one composed for the film).
Mentioned in the credits (chronologically):
- "On the Horizon" by Sloan (Navy Blues, 1998)
- "Can't Face Up" (credited "How many times") by Sloan (One Chord to Another, 1996)
- "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies (Hollies, 1974)
- "Do It Again" by Steely Dan (Can't Buy a Thrill, 1972)
- "Smokin'" by Boston (Boston, 1976)
- "Crazy On You" by Heart (Dreamboat Annie, 1976)
- "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra (Face the Music, 1975)
- "Come Sail Away" by Styx (The Grand Illusion, 1977)
- "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan (Himself, 1971)
- "So Far Away" by Carole King (Tapestry, 1971)
- "The Lines You Amend" (credited "End It Peacefully") by Sloan (One Chord to Another)
- "A Dream Goes on Forever" by Todd Rundgren (Todd, 1974)
- "Ce Matin-là" by Air (Moon Safari, 1998)
- "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by Al Green (Let's Stay Together, 1972)
- "Everything You've Done Wrong" by Sloan (One Chord to Another, 1996)
- "The Good in Everyone" by Sloan (One Chord to Another, 1996)
- "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc (The Original Soundtrack, 1975)
- "Hello It's Me" by Todd Rundgren (Something/Anything?, 1972)
- "Run to Me" by the Bee Gees (To Whom It May Concern, 1972)
- The Virgin Suicides (2000). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
- Scott, A. O. (April 21, 2000). "The Virgin Suicides (1999) FILM REVIEW; Evanescent Trees and Sisters In an Enchanted 1970's Suburb". The New York Times.
- The Virgin Suicides Reviews, Ratings, Credits. Metacritic. Retrieved 2011-03-11.