Sofia Coppola was the woman who most fingers were pointed at when looking for someone to blame for The Godfather III. It seems that they were a little harsh in their criticisms. It turns outs that she has plenty of her father’s talent and has directed one of the most ethereal and intangible films for years.Copolla has taken Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel on the suicide of five sisters and runs with its romantic and reminiscent tone surrounding the tragedy.
The reminiscence of a time long past usually leads to a glossing over of the tragedies and a romantic emphasis on the high points. How do you gloss over youth suicide though? That drastic and, "deeper than death decision" by young people with whole lives in front of them is such an awful tragedy that the topic is only reluctantly discussed. Why does it happen? Who is to blame? These are questions that are not easily answered. The reminiscing of boys of the suicide of five girls that they loved is dealt with in The Virgin Suicides.
The Lisbon sisters: Cecelia (Hall), Lux (Dunst), Bonnie (Swain), Mary (Cook) and Therese (Hayman) were the object of fascination and wonder for the local 1970s community - especially the boys. They could not comprehend how such beautiful daughters could be the product of the marriage of the rather stuffy Mr. Lisbon (Woods) - a local high school math’s teacher - and the rather mother-superior-esque Mrs. Lisbon (Turner). Thanks to a world conscious Cecelia and a sequence of events, a tragedy is set to happen.
This film is not about knowing the girls and their motives - That is meant to be a mystery. It’s about the boys and in turn the community’s fascination and reaction to them. We never hear the conversations between the girls and finding out what they are thinking. All we learn about them is from evidence that the boys can gather up. That’s because the film is more about the reaction to the girls rather than learning about them.
The Lisbon family’s destroyed innocence marked the demise of the community that loved them. The girls are a symbol of society’s lost beauty and purity of heart that was replaced by tragedy, anger, confusion and on-the-spot-reporting-live-on-the-scene. Eugenides and Coppola have marked this time as somewhere in the 1970s. A time that they may feel the suburban utopia ideal also started to collapse - a time when the back door could no longer be left unlocked.
Coppola has done a great job with recreating the idyllic 70s suburbia. She has had experience in photography and it shows with intricately and elegantly crafted cinematography showing all the pretty little girly things that teenage girls have to fill their rooms and lives.
This hauntingly beautiful film has some stand out performances from Woods and Turner - Both in roles that are slightly different paces than we’ve come to be used to. The girls are just dreamy - as they’re mean to be - especially Cecilia and Lux (who Coppola obviously takes a liking to). They stand out because of their stronger written characters which Hall and Dunst portray with poignancy. The other three sisters do get a bit left out.
The music for the film - a collection of releases at the time and a score by French duo Air - captures the spirit of the time. The sequence where the girls communicate with their admiring boys is quite heart pilfering.The Virgin Suicides leaves you taking large deep breaths and holding back welling tears. The film just asks the questions with no attempt to answer them. That is your job as your contemplate the girls’ and society’s lost innocence. The rousing of emotions is nearly overwhelming. Coppola’s beautiful film is a wonderful debut effort.