The Virgin Suicides (film)

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The Virgin Suicides
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Produced by
Written by Sofia Coppola
Based on The Virgin Suicides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Music by Air
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Classics
Release date
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.1 million
Box office $10.4 million[1]

The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 American drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola, co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, and Josh Hartnett. The film also features Scott Glenn, Michael Paré and Danny DeVito in minor roles, and a voice narration by Giovanni Ribisi.

Based on the 1993 best selling debut novel of the same name by American author Jeffrey Eugenides, the film tells of the 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 home, which leads to their increasingly depressive and isolated behavior. Like the novel, the film is told from the perspective of a group of adolescent boys in the neighborhood who are fascinated by the girls.[a]

Shot in 1998 in Toronto, the film was director Sofia Coppola's debut feature. It features an original score by the French electronic band Air. The film premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, and received a limited theatrical release on April 21, 2000 in the United States, later expanding to a wide release in May 2000. It was met with largely positive critical reception, with both the performances and Coppola's direction receiving note. The film marked the beginning of a working relationship between Coppola and star Dunst, whom Coppola would cast as the lead in several films in the following years.


A single narrator representing a group of four men reflects upon their memories of the five teenage Lisbon sisters, who were their neighbors in Grosse Pointe, Michigan during their youths. The girls — in order from oldest to youngest, Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux, and Cecilia — lived with their strictly Catholic and overprotective parents, high-school math teacher Ronald and his homemaker wife,

One summer day, Cecilia slits her wrists in a bathtub, but survives. Later, during the Lisbons' chaperoned basement party that was held to make Cecilia feel better, she excuses herself and jumps out of her second-story bedroom window, impaling herself on an iron fence. After her death, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon watch their four remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family from the community.

At the beginning of the school year, Lux begins a romance with Trip Fontaine, the school heartthrob. Trip persuades Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the homecoming dance by promising to provide dates for the other sisters. After winning homecoming king and queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch the group and have sex on the football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep and Trip abandons her. At dawn, she wakes up alone and has to take a taxi home.

Having broken curfew, Lux and her sisters are punished by their parents by being taken out of school and confined to the house. The sisters keep in contact with the four boys by using light signals and sharing songs over the phone. During this time, Lux rebels by having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of her house late at night while the neighborhood boys spy from across the street. After months of confinement, the sisters invite the boys over to the house one night. When the boys arrive, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. The boys offer to help her and her sisters escape, but Lux tells them to wait inside for her sisters while she goes and starts the car in the garage.

The boys wander into the basement and discover Bonnie's body hanging from the rafters. Horrified, they rush back upstairs and stumble across the body of Mary in the kitchen. The girls have all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact: Bonnie hanged herself; Mary put her head in the gas oven; Therese overdosed on sleeping pills; and Lux left the car engine running in the closed garage.

After the suicides of all their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon leave the neighborhood. Mr. Lisbon has a friend clean out the house and sell off any remaining belongings in a yard sale. Whatever did not sell was put in the trash, which the four boys collect as mementos, including family photos. The house is sold to a young couple from the Boston area. The other adults in the community soon go about their lives as if nothing happened, but the boys, now grown, cannot forget the Lisbon sisters.




Coppola wrote the script for the film in 1998 after the project was already greenlit at another studio, adapting it from the source novel, of which she was a fan.[3] Another script had already been written by Nick Gomez, but the production company that owned the rights at the time, Muse Productions, were dissatisfied with the script.[4] After the rights to the novel lapsed,[3] Coppola pitched her manuscript to Muse executives Roberta and Chris Hanley, the latter of whom signed on to co-produce.[4] Coppola was inspired to write the film after reading the source novel: "I really didn't know I wanted to be a director until I read The Virgin Suicides and saw so clearly how it had to be done," she said. "I immediately saw the central story as being about what distance and time and memory do to you, and about the extraordinary power of the unfathomable."[5]


Kathleen Turner was the first actor to sign on to the project, playing the Lisbon girls' oppressive mother; Turner had known Coppola after they co-starred together in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).[5] James Woods was cast opposite Turner as the passive father; Woods was given the script by Coppola's father, Francis, and was so impressed by the script and the character's "dark humor" that he agreed to play the role.[5] For the part of Lux, Coppola auditioned numerous actress, but had a "gut choice" of Kirsten Dunst, who was sixteen years old at the time of her casting.[6] Reflecting on the role, Dunst said: "I was nervous. It was my first role that was more of a 'sexy' thing. I was also unsure about how large the role was gonna be, because a lot of it was without dialogue. When I met Sofia, I immediately knew that she would handle it in a delicate way... [she] really brought out the luminous aspect of the girls; she made them like ethereal angels, almost like they weren't really there."[7]


The Virgin Suicides was filmed in 1999 in Toronto, Ontario, standing in for suburban Detroit, Michigan,[6] on a reported budget of USD$6 million.[8] The shoot lasted roughly one month.[8]

Coppola was inspired by photographer Takashi Homma's photos of suburban Japan when choosing the filming locations; "I have always been struck by the beauty of banal details," she said, "and that is what suburban style is all about."[5] The film's occasional use of stills and collages was intended to evoke the "fantasia" of adolescence.[5] Cinematographer Edward Lachman shot the film.[5] Coppola's brother, Roman, was the second-unit director on the film.[9]


The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides (film).jpg
Soundtrack album by Various
Released March 28, 2000 (2000-03-28)[10]
Genre Soundtrack
Length 53:53
Label Emperor Norton[11]



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. Sofia Coppola wanted to convey the theme of adolescence in the suburbs in the soundtrack.[5] She found that Air shared many of her suburban memories and experiences even though they grew up in a different country.[5]

A separate soundtrack album was released in 2000 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).[11]

Track listing[edit]

1."Magic Man"Ann Wilson, Nancy WilsonHeart5:28
2."Hello It's Me"Todd RundgrenTodd Rundgren4:21
3."Everything You've Done Wrong"SloanSloan3:27
4."Ce Matin Là"Air, Patrick WoodcockAir3:39
5."The Air That I Breathe"Albert Hammond, Mike HazlewoodThe Hollies3:47
6."How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"Barry Gibb, Robin GibbAl Green6:23
7."Alone Again (Naturally)"Gilbert O'SullivanGilbert O'Sullivan3:39
8."I'm Not in Love"Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman10cc6:04
9."A Dream Goes On Forever"Todd RundgrenTodd Rundgren2:23
10."Crazy on You"Ann Wilson, Nancy WilsonHeart4:55
11."Playground Love" (Vibraphone version)Air, Thomas MarsAir3:51
12."Come Sail Away"Dennis DeYoungStyx6:04


The film had its world premiere at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on May 19.[3] It was given a limited release in the United States almost a year later on April 21, 2000.[12] The theatrical release would expand to a wide release in May 2000.[13]

Critical reception[edit]

The Virgin Suicides received mostly positive reviews from film critics, though some noted the film's discomforting thematic material.[14] It holds a 76% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 95 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Sofia's successful directorial debut lies in the movie's compelling story and the actors' genuine emotions."[15] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 76 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16] Jeffrey Eugenides visited the set of the film for three days.[5] He supports the film, but he did offer a few critiques in an interview with "Dazed".[5] Eugenides envisioned the girls as more of an entity than actual people; he believes this idea could have been accomplished by casting different actresses to play the same character with each actress changing depending on whom they are speaking to.[5]

Graham Fuller of The New York Times gave the film a middling review, writing: "Ms. Coppola has made [...] a haunting metaphysical celebration of adolescence with the aura of a myth. Yet, on the surface, there is something wrong with this picture: how can a film in which a quintet of apparently normal girls commit suicide possibly be a celebration, and why would a filmmaker attempt to make it so unless she is uncommonly perverse?"[17] Kevin Thomas of The Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, unanimously praising Coppola's direction, the cast, and the production design, but also noted that while the film "is successfully venturesome... you need to know that it's also a real downer."[2] Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, and positively compared it to Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975): "[Coppola] has the courage to play it in a minor key," he notes. "She doesn't hammer home ideas and interpretations. She is content with the air of mystery and loss that hangs in the air like bitter poignancy."[18]

Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine noted the film's dreamy, childlike nature, writing: "The narrator speaks of youth as if it existed and still exists in a near-fugue state. In this respect, the film is as much a relevant view of adolescence and male/female relations as it is an act of remembrance. Scenes from the film (first kisses, gossiping about neighbors) are sinewy in nature and seem lifted from the pages of a lost photo album."[19] Critic Richard Crouse called the film "one of those rare occasions when a film surpasses the book it is based on," and included it in his book The 100 Best Movies You've Never Seen (2003).[20]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and DVD through Paramount Home Video on December 19, 2000.[21] On April 24, 2018, a remastered version of the film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray via The Criterion Collection, featuring new interviews, a behind-the-scenes documentary, an essay, among other features.[22][23]


  1. ^ Like Eugenides' source novel, Coppola's script also frames the narrative through the perspective of the neighborhood boys who look on as the Lisbon girls are cordoned off from the world by their parents. In the film, Giovanni Ribisi provides the voice of an adult Tim Weiner, who relays the events to the audience.[2]


  1. ^ The Virgin Suicides (2000). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (21 April 2000). "'The Virgin Suicides' an Affecting, Somber Tale of Repressed Lives". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Richman, Darren (14 June 2017). "Movies You Might Have Missed: Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides". The Independent. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  4. ^ a b LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 89.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "About the Production". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
    • "The Cast". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
    • "The Style". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
    • "The Music". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  6. ^ a b LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 91.
  7. ^ Dunst, Kirsten (June 2000). "The Cat's Meow! Kirsten Dunst". Interview (Interview). Interviewed by Brendan Lemon. Retrieved 26 December 2016. 
  8. ^ a b LoBratto & Morrison 2012, p. 90.
  9. ^ LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 90.
  10. ^ "The Virgin Suicides: Music from the Motion Picture". AllMusic. Retrieved March 5, 2018. 
  11. ^ a b Various Artists (2000). The Virgin Suicides (CD) (Soundtrack). Emperor Norton. ASIN B00027JY4E. EMN 7029. 
  12. ^ Scott, A.O. (21 April 2000). "FILM REVIEW; Evanescent Trees and Sisters In an Enchanted 1970's Suburb". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  13. ^ "Plan Ahead". The Washington Post. 28 April 2000. Retrieved 16 July 2017. 
  14. ^ LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 92.
  15. ^ "The Virgin Suicides (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  16. ^ "The Virgin Suicides". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  17. ^ Fuller, Graham (16 April 2000). "FILM; Sofia Coppola's Second Chance". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (5 May 2000). "The Virgin Suicides Movie Review". Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  19. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (2 May 2001). "The Virgin Suicides: Film Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  20. ^ Crouse, Richard (2003). The 100 Best Movies You've Never Seen. ECW Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-1-554-90540-9. 
  21. ^ "The Virgin Suicides". Cinema Review. Paramount Film Corp. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  22. ^ "The Virgin Suicides". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved January 18, 2018. 
  23. ^ Sharf, Zack (January 16, 2018). "Criterion Announces 'The Virgin Suicides' 4K Restoration, Approved by Ed Lachman and Sofia Coppola". Retrieved January 18, 2018. 


  • LoBrutto, Vincent; Morrison, Harriet R. (2012). The Coppolas: A Family Business. Modern Filmmakers. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39161-3. 

External links[edit]