The Virgin Suicides (film)

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The Virgin Suicides
VirginSuicidesPoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Julie Costanzo
Dan Halsted
Chris Hanley
Written by Sofia Coppola
Based on The Virgin Suicides 
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Starring James Woods
Kathleen Turner
Kirsten Dunst
Josh Hartnett
A. J. Cook
Narrated by Giovanni Ribisi
Music by Jean-Benoît Dunckel
Nicolas Godin
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by Melissa Kent
James Lyons
Production
company
Distributed by Paramount Classics (US)
Pathé (UK)
Release dates
  • May 19, 1999 (1999-05-19) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • May 12, 2000 (2000-05-12) (U.S.)
  • May 19, 2000 (2000-05-19) (UK)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.1 million
Box office $10,409,377[1]

The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 American drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola,[2] produced by her father Francis Ford Coppola,[2] starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, and A. J. Cook.[2]

Based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides, the film tells of the events surrounding the brief lives of five teenage sisters in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit during the 1970s. After the youngest sister makes an initial attempt at suicide, the sisters are put under close scrutiny by their parents, eventually being put into near-confinement, which leads to increasingly depressive and isolated behaviour that contributes to the family's fatal melancholy.

Summary[edit]

The story takes place in the sleepy and decaying suburbs of Grosse Pointe Michigan during the 1970's, as four neighborhood boys, now grown men, reflect on their neighbors—the five Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17, whose beauty had bewitched them as teenagers. Strictly unattainable due to their 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 begins with the suicide attempt of the youngest sister, Cecilia, as she slits her wrist in a bath. After her parents throw a chaperoned basement party intended to make her feel better, Cecilia excuses herself and jumps out her second story bedroom window, instantly dying when she is impaled on an iron fence below. In the wake of her act, the Lisbon parents begin to watch over their four remaining daughters even more closely, further isolating the family from the community and heightening the intrigue and 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 relationship with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the school heartthrob. Trip comes over one night to the Lisbon residence to watch television and persuades Mr. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the Homecoming Dance by promising to provide dates for the other sisters, to go as a group. After being crowned Homecoming Queen and King, Lux and Trip ditch the event and have sex on the football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep 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 furious Mrs. Lisbon by being taken out of school and sequestered in their house of maximum security isolation. Unable to leave the house, the sisters contact the boys across the street by using light signals and sharing songs over the phone as a means of sharing their unrequited feelings.

During this time, a rebellious Lux becomes very promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of the house late at night; the neighborhood boys spy and watch Lux in action from across the street. Finally, after weeks of confinement, the sisters mysteriously leave a note for the boys, presumably asking for help to escape. When the boys arrive that night ready to runaway with the girls, 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, leading the boys to believe they will soon elope with the girls. While they wait, the boys briefly imagine the group of them driving blissfully away on a sun-soaked country road.

Curious, the boys wander into the dark basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie's body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Terrified, they rush upstairs only to stumble across the body of Mary. The boys realize that the girls had all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact moments before: Bonnie hanged herself, Mary died by sticking her head in the gas oven; Therese died by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, and Lux, being the last one to go, died by Carbon monoxide poisoning, when she left the car engine running in the sealed garage. But there is no explanation why.

Devastated and puzzled by the suicides of all their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon quietly flee the neighborhood, never to return. Mr. Lisbon had a friend clean out the house and sell off the family belongings, especially those belonging to the girls, in a yard sale; whatever didn't sell was put in the trash, including the family photos, which the neighborhood boys collected as mementos. The house is quickly sold to a young couple from Boston. Seemingly unsure how to react, the adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing ever happened or that the Lisbons ever even lived there. But the boys never forget about the girls however much they tried, though everyone else eventually did. And the girls forever haunt them and remain a source of grief and lost innocence long into adulthood. As the film ends, one of the men acknowledges in voice-over that they had loved the girls, who hadn't heard them calling and that they will never find the pieces to understand why the Lisbon sisters went to be alone in suicide for all time.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The film was generally well received by critics; it has a 76% Metacritic rating and a 76% Rotten Tomatoes rating.[3] 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."[3] 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."[3]

Score[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

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, Heart, Sloan, The Hollies, Al Green, Gilbert O'Sullivan, 10cc, Head East, and two tracks by Air (one previously recorded; one composed for the film).

Mentioned in the credits (chronologically):

Cultural references[edit]

  • A passage from the narration and a ticking clock sound are sampled at the end of the song "Doors Closing Slowly" from the album Journal for Plague Lovers by Manic Street Preachers. The quoted passage is "In the end we had pieces of the puzzle but no matter how we put them together gaps remained; oddly shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name".

References[edit]

External links[edit]