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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The Virgin Suicides
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Paramount 04/00 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - strong thematic elements involving teens

Adolescent boys are transfixed by the mystery of girls — their sexuality, their lightness of being, their secret lingo, and their fluid movements. Anyone who grew up in suburbia will recognize the repression and the obsession with restraint that is at the heart of this beguiling screen adaptation of a best-selling novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. The setting is Michigan in the late 1970s.

The most exotic family on the block is the Lisbons. The father (James Woods) teaches math at the high school and his wife (Kathleen Turner) is a strict disciplinarian with her five daughters. When the youngest, Cecilia (Hanna Hall), commits suicide, their neighbors — four boys — are shocked and unable to handle the fallout. They find her diary and concoct their own stories about Cecilia. They become equally entranced with Lux (Kirsten Dunst), the most sexual of the Lisbons.

After convincing her father that the Lisbon sisters should be allowed to attend the prom, Lux spends the whole night out with her date. Their mother punishes her by making all the girls virtual prisoners in their home. The boys discover creative ways of communicating with them; the best includes a dialogue over the phone using love ballads by Carole King, the Bee Gees, and others. In the end, the Lisbon girls find a startling way of imprinting themselves upon the psyches and souls of the boys across the street.

In her debut as a film director, Sofia Coppola has made one of the most unusual films ever fashioned out of the fears and the fantasies of adolescent boys. It depicts what Terry Tempest Williams has called eroticism: "No longer numb, we feel the magnetic pull of our bodies toward something stronger, more vital than simply ourselves. Arousal becomes a dance with longing. We form a secret partnership with possibility." Yes, that is a perfect description of The Virgin Suicides — it is a dance with longing acted out in the imaginations of four boys.

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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