Today: April 19, 2024

The Virgin Suicides

Rating: 4/5.

Run time: 1hour 35.
Director:  Sofia Coppola.
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, AJ Cook, Leslie Hayman, Michael Pare, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito, Hanna R Hall, Chelse Swain, Jonathan Tucker, Noah Shebib, Robert Schwartzman, Lee Kagan, Anthony Desimone, Jow Roncetti, Hayden Christensen, Chris Hale, Joe Dinicol, Suki Kaiser, Allen Stewart-Coates, Giovanni Ribisi.

There’s something deeply unsettling about The Virgin Suicides. It isn’t that it conjures up the horrible uncertainties of youth. That it reminds us adults of dark times, of dark days, and the emotional rollercoaster of our teenage years. It’s that, even in the deft hands of Sofia Coppola, the narrative fails.

The story of the five adolescent Lisbon sisters, is set in middle class Detroit in the mid-70s, and never seems to escape all of the hang-ups and stereotypes of the era. The film [SPOILERS] is not so much an exploration of depression, anxiety, dysfunctional families, and suicide, as a dissection of how young girls are viewed, controlled, and sidelined. But, for all that the film still hands over the narrative to the boys.

Sofia Coppola’s debut film—based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides— is a great piece of filmmaking. Its portrayal of the beauty, banality, and oppressive normality of the ‘burbs is superbly done. Kirsten Dunst is both vulnerable and etherial as the doomed Lux Lisbon. The sound track is mesmerizing. There’s absolutely no doubt that The Virgin Suicides is a film that deserves its reputation. But—it’s also a film in which everyone seems to be passive—and ultimately helpless. The plot, such as it is, unfolds, but we feel no connection to the girls. We should at least feel angry at what happens to them. We don’t, because ultimately, it’s not their story.

It’s really about the boys who desired them, obsessed over them, used them and, years later, still discuss their deaths as though everything that happened is a mystery that has absolutely nothing to do with them, the community, or the girl’s parents. No one learns. No one reflects. And maybe that’s true to life. Maybe we should simply be satisfied with the dark, Lynchian drama of it all—and demand no more. But if we do that then, boy, is it bleak. 

Studiocanal’s 4k restoration of Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut The Virgin Suicides is out on Blu-ray, DVD and, for the first time in the UK, on 4K UHD and Digital from 13th March.

 

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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