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A Review of the 1999 Film "The Virgin Suicides"

4 out of 5
A Review of the 1999 Film "The Virgin Suicides"
Image Source: Wikipedia

The film adaptation of the novel The Virgin Suicides is an interesting little enigma, as may be the book (I have not yet read it but now that I’ve seen the film, I plan to).  There are so many unanswered questions, and yet there are so many little hints that director Sofia Coppola throws in there to either help you answer the questions or to just promote further speculation.

So the plot basically follows these five sisters of an overly repressive household where a deeper evil is maybe, possibly, lurking under the surface - or are these girls just naturally depressed as either a) a result of their upbringing b) a chemical issue c) none of the above?  That’s left to you to decide.

Youngest sister Cecelia starts us off on the film’s appropriate tone by trying, and failing, to commit suicide by slitting her wrists, only to succeed mere moments later by throwing herself out of her bedroom window during a chaperoned party her parents throw for her to make her feel better.  Irony.  Though, “irony” probably isn’t the most appropriate word, since she dies by impaling herself on the iron fence that lines the home outside.

From there, you may expect to see the rest of the sisters gradually off themselves one by one - after all, the biggest spoiler is in the title of the movie.  However, we instead follow their process of grieving over their sister, and we see their parents tighten the noose around their necks until they can no longer breathe (sorry, Bonnie).

Lux (Kirsten Dunst, in one of her least annoying roles) strikes up a passionate relationship with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) that’s intense teenage lust at its finest.  We see him talk to the camera about her later on in life, reminiscing about how she “drove him crazy” and how he really did love her, yet after they sleep together, he just abandons her and can’t explain why. 

Their relationship, however brief, both a) causes us to have even more questions (why did he leave her? How can it be the “virgin” suicides if Lux isn’t a virgin?) and b) essentially is the beginning of the end of the sisters’ lives, as Mom (Kathleen Turner) freaks out, pulls them all out of school, and turns them into recluses who eventually, in one fell swoop at the end of the movie, all kill themselves together.

Was it a suicide pact?  We don’t know.  It seems like one, but it’s never explicitly stated.  Why did the girls want the boys across the street to witness it?  Was it because they were the only ones they ever truly connected with?  Did the fact that they were all girls and have the last name “Lisbon,” which is close to “lesbian,” mean anything?

One thing’s for sure - Coppola knows how to use music to set the scene, and I don’t just mean that cool scene where the girls and guys express their feelings to each other through records.  I mean how she’ll put scary, ominous music behind a scene that doesn’t play out that way. 

There are so many little cues in the film - what is she trying to tell us with them?  Like the fallen number on the front door.  And did the girls’ poses in the pre-prom picture signify anything in particular?  It seems weird that Lux would notice “a leak” that never before or after was mentioned.  I’m sure that pose was planned - I just can’t figure out why.

And what drove these girls to the ultimate extreme of suicide?  My first thought was that their parents may have abused them (beyond what we already know).  Especially when Dad (James Woods) went into Cecelia’s dark room - did that strike anyone else as weird?  He may not have been a perv, but he was certainly coming undone, that’s for sure, as is evidenced by his talking to the plants at school.

What are your thoughts on this film?

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