The Virgin Suicides (1999) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong thematic elements, language and drug use
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Josh Hartnett, Hannah Hall, Leslie Hayman, Chelse Swain, Michael Pare, Hayden Christensen
Director: Sofia Coppola
Screenplay: Sofia Coppola
Review published July 21, 2004
Based on the book by Jeffrey Eugenides, the setting is the 1970s, where a suburban family -- mom, dad, and five sisters -- come to an untimely demise. The details aren't spelled out. although the voice-over (narrated by Giovanni Ribisi) does state that the girls never make it past a certain point. The first daughter to end her own life is the youngest, the 13-year-old Cecilia (Hall, Forrest Gump). The result causes the parents to be overly protective from then on, as well as others treating the surviving girls differently, which seems to seal their fate even further.
The Virgin Suicides marks the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), who shows she has learned quite well how to put together a cohesive, and sometimes compelling, film from her father, the great Francis Ford Coppola. It's a complex film, and quite fascinating as it develops, although it isn't without its share of flaws. Although it is just a little over 90 minutes, the pace is quite slow, which has a terrific effect on certain scenes that give them a ponderous feel, there are times when the storyline just feels like it's dragging. There is an element of the surreal throughout, interesting in the way it is applied, yet also giving the movie as a whole a distance to the viewer that doesn't always allow us to connect with it. Instead, we can feel on an almost intangible level what is going on, yet the emotion of the situation doesn't hit us as much as Coppola probably strived to.
This is one of those movies that will strike a definite chord with certain people, especially those who have felt a childhood of overprotection. There is definitely potential for some powerful moments here, but personally speaking, Coppola's vision seems too disjointed for it to have come together in a satisfactory fashion as a whole. As intriguing as it is throughout, there is an emptiness of feeling here that, even if it were intentional, still makes all of the best of intentions ring hollow. Beautifully shot, even if less than beautifully realized..
©2004 Vince Leo