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Overall Rating
3.66

Awesome: 30.07%
Worth A Look35.95%
Average: 14.38%
Pretty Bad: 9.15%
Total Crap: 10.46%

12 reviews, 81 user ratings


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Virgin Suicides, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Not terrible, but overrated and shallow."
3 stars

Five perfectly normal-seeming blonde teenage girls -- all sisters from the same perfectly normal-seeming suburban house -- killed themselves in 1975. This much we're told at the beginning of 'The Virgin Suicides,' a glum coming-of-age/suburban fairy tale structured like a murder mystery -- a self-murder mystery -- to which there is no answer. The point being, I suppose, that suicide is a void that swallows up rational questions; the very existence of suicide cancels out logic.

I wish I'd enjoyed The Virgin Suicides more -- in outline, it's exactly my kind of depressive anti-Hollywood fare -- but I can really only half-heartedly recommend it. Partly it's the timing: the source material, Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, may have seemed fresh upon its 1994 publication, but since then we've had a raft of films probing the suburban malaise -- The Ice Storm, Happiness, and American Beauty were the better ones. By now, the idea that misery lurks underneath the plasticized surface of outwardly happy homes is a bit stale; these days, a truly original movie would show us a suburban family that seems happy and then actually turns out to be happy.

The five Lisbon girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17, have grown up in a Repressive Environment (ah, the usual suspect in movies like this). Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner), a grim and smothering woman, keeps the girls safe at home every night, while Mr. Lisbon (James Woods), a milquetoast math teacher, pretty much leaves the decisions to his wife. The "first to go," we're told by the narrator (Giovanni Ribisi), is the youngest, Cecilia (Hannah Hall), whose botched wrist-slitting attempt is soon followed by a more surefire method that seems imported from a horror movie. After that, Mrs. Lisbon cracks down harder than ever, and the fence outside the house is disposed of, for reasons you'll discover if you see the film.

That fence, along with so much else in The Virgin Suicides, feels literary in a way that doesn't present itself until later -- you intellectualize the meaning, but you don't feel it. And you don't really feel it when the second eldest, Lux (Kirsten Dunst), falls for a young stud who calls himself Trip (Josh Hartnett). The teens in this movie cling to each other in a fog of suburban self-contempt bordering on hysteria, and all I could think was how indelibly Ang Lee already accomplished this in The Ice Storm.

The Virgin Suicides has won some glowing notices -- let's face it, it's been overpraised -- and I can only conclude that many critics, remorseful about the skewering they gave Sofia Coppola for The Godfather Part III when she was only trying to help out her dad, are now building up her writing-directing debut to be more than it is. To be sure, the younger Coppola is gentle with her cast, and she does some interesting things, but she also tries a little too hard to be lyrical yet gloomy -- the movie is like a Francesca Lia Block young-adult novel left out in the rain. She also can't do much with the parents as written, and neither can their (elsewhere excellent) portrayers: Turner's performance is like a joyless remix of her Serial Mom, and poor James Woods seems raring to play a man sinking under the weight of unacknowledged grief, if only the script would let him. And didn't Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland play these same characters 20 years ago?

The movie, perhaps daringly, arrives at its conclusion without really having arrived at a point. The point may be that there is no point, which seems a fashionable trend in indie films these days. Trip and the other three boys who fall in love with the Lisbon girls -- or so the movie tells us; we don't really feel that either -- are left with nothing except their memories of the blonde suburban perfection that concealed such hungry demons inside. Even when the boys become men, the girls are never far from their thoughts. They don't know why the girls were so miserable, but we in the audience can read the situation pretty well: It's yet another case of blame-the-parents, and, more precisely, blame-the-overprotective-mother.

For all its sympathy for teenage girls' pain, 'The Virgin Suicides' is an ode to girls as helpless waifs and women as martinets, and inadvertently it's also an ode to suicide: What better way for a girl to gain eternal life in the minds of her boy admirers?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3859&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/11/07 07:50:28
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User Comments

5/19/13 PAUL SHORTT COMPELLING, INTENSE DRAMA WITH SOME GOOD PERFORMANCES 3 stars
8/20/11 Rachel undeveloped characters and story. Ridiculous and crude. Not at all like the 70's I lived 1 stars
8/16/11 chris Poetic and kind of empty in some ways though why it got a R-rating is beyond me. 4 stars
3/20/11 Lab Rat Well, I think every woman having kids MUST see this, to know how NOT to raise them. 5 stars
7/17/10 brian Can Ribisi fail even when he's not on screen? No, he cannot. 4 stars
10/24/09 Jeff Wilder Visually poetic. 4 stars
8/28/09 Girl A really good movie 4 stars
5/19/09 Anonymous. anyone who liked this movie should read the book, it's even better. 4 stars
5/15/09 Matt absolutely horrid and detestable in every way. made me want to hang myself 1 stars
8/01/07 ravenmad this is a luv it/hate it pic: I loved it! 5 stars
5/14/07 fools♫gold What would later lead to greats like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. 7/10 4 stars
2/22/07 Beau wonderfully made film from 'coppola' and 'dunst and turner' are magnificent, very compellin 5 stars
12/06/06 criticalthinker It is critical to read the book before watching the film. 4 stars
11/27/06 William Goss Intimate, immediate, and haunting. 5 stars
9/23/06 David Pollastrini Sofia coppola directs much better than she acts 5 stars
3/04/06 omar one of the best movies ever. depressing but a good movie altogether 5 stars
8/17/05 ES blah, blah, blah, blah, blah =not worth the time or money 1 stars
4/27/05 movielover this movie is one of the best movies ever! 5 stars
4/24/05 sweetgrrl1972 Boring 1 stars
3/25/05 john h. wallace very depressiing yet lures you into wanting more 5 stars
1/28/05 gtsilver makes you wonder what your daughters are thinking 4 stars
1/16/05 Jeff Anderson A dreamy, perfectly acted, and totally accurate depiction of the 70's. SOFIA COPPOLA ROCKS! 5 stars
12/07/04 Felicia Matthews I really like this movie. It was well directed and had very talented actors 5 stars
7/25/04 Movieguy A great film 5 stars
7/21/04 dropdead beautiful movie, very endearing. 5 stars
6/16/04 Jeanne Beautifully shot, nice mood, but ultimately, no real point 3 stars
5/29/04 R.W. Welch Good cinematography but enigmatic and a bit draggy. 3 stars
3/28/04 lvlisty69 it was good to me is it true? 4 stars
1/30/04 Elena Amazing use of music; great acting; but story has holes in it... doesn't make sense 3 stars
1/27/04 Chloe Brody The title was decieving...the virgin suicides...hmmm 4 stars
1/10/04 your worst goddamn nightmare artsy, humorous, intelligent film... the narration reminded me of Goodfellas, hehe 5 stars
10/28/03 WestcoastPunk wow is all i hvae to say 5 stars
9/09/03 sneaker it's not enough to show sad pretty girls in "danger looming" atmosphere. Cheap. 3 stars
9/05/03 Darlene Groetz The movie in which Kirsten Dunst became a zombie of the tragic wands. 1 stars
4/29/03 Buko This movie has a magical feeling, and Kirsten is just wonderful 5 stars
4/20/03 Dillon Considering its the directors debut, pretty damn good. Great music, great Dunst & Josh too 4 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Curiously unmoving. 2 stars
3/13/03 kelley jewell its alright 3 stars
2/05/03 Kirsten Dunst fan in mourning I'd rather be sodomized by a gang of porcupines than have to play "Lux"!. 1 stars
1/15/03 dammitall this is the worst. only visuals worth it. 1 stars
11/28/02 Zack W. Young Beautiful and truly disturbing. 5 stars
8/31/02 Natalie Stonecipher Poor Kirsten Dunst - Is she wasted herein? Drawn and quartered is more like it. 1 stars
8/28/02 I Can't Swim Excellent in practically every way. A bit more insight into Mom & Dad would have been nice 4 stars
8/27/02 Phoenix I'm in love with Kirsten Dunst. 5 stars
6/22/02 Frances I love twisted films like this 5 stars
6/01/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi I absolutely loved this film, very depressing, yet very entertaining 5 stars
5/16/02 Darlene Groetz The movie where Kirsten Dunst became a zombie of the tragic wands. 1 stars
4/29/02 Demure33 It has all the flavor of the 70s from a girl's perspective 4 stars
3/31/02 Elizaveta amazingly real 5 stars
3/06/02 Kirsten Dunst fan in mourning I'd rather be sodomized by a gang of porcupines than have to play "Lux". 1 stars
3/02/02 Nomargin Fantastically clautorphobic!! Ms. Coppola has a bright future ahead of her. 5 stars
2/03/02 Natalie Stonecipher Poor Kirsten Dunst - Is she wasted herein? Drawn and quartered is more like it. 1 stars
1/14/02 Tomper Lux was a virgin??? Barely stuck it out to the end. 3 stars
12/03/01 Kate Dull, missing lots o'details, unrealistic, under-dvlpd chrctrs, boring plot. Don't bother. 1 stars
11/30/01 Jeff Wilson Nice "collective" narration idea. Dunst before she made teen crap. nice movie, nice book 4 stars
9/17/01 Bri Yuck, avoid this garbage. 1 stars
9/08/01 country had to watch it for a college english course... i liked it, and the book is worth reading 4 stars
8/18/01 Dakamus "Sucks All Ass" is nowhere near the level of shittiness for this festering bag of poop. 1 stars
5/29/01 Basil I think it w 5 stars
4/01/01 Clarance FanFuckinTastic cinematography combined with a unique and thought provoking plot 4 stars
3/22/01 lickthestar Not as good as the book but few movies are I suppose. Still an excellent film. 5 stars
3/08/01 Mart Dawg GAyest, most boring movie i've seen in a while, IT WOULDNT FUCKING END!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
2/24/01 Marie completely unbeliavable. Huge plot holes. 3 stars
1/28/01 xy this movie was so awesome. i reccommend u watch it!!! 5 stars
1/07/01 kyle great soundtrack + lovely um, girls? woods very good 4 stars
12/17/00 perverted pixie Shades of "To Die For". Ethereal and enigmatic- who exactly was the narrator? 4 stars
10/18/00 elizabeth dreamy, ethereal, gooey like the lip gloss on kirsten dunst's lips 4 stars
10/06/00 JL Sofia's a lucky bitch. But also a fucking genious. I want a new daddy. Two thumbs way up!!! 5 stars
8/29/00 Viking Not a bad effort 4 stars
8/16/00 MIKE I AM IN SUCH LOVE WITH JOSH HARTNETT! WHAT A HOT GUY!!!!!! 5 stars
8/13/00 Belinda Yawn. 2 stars
6/25/00 skye chapman boring. trite. empty. simpleminded. obvious. stupid. annoying. is it only me? 1 stars
6/12/00 Lisa Odd movie, but kept my interest. Not enough info regarding the reasons for the suicides. 4 stars
5/30/00 Zatoichi Jones Dead sexy and dead creepy. 4 stars
5/19/00 Louis An OK movie. Kirsten Dunst is HOT! 3 stars
5/19/00 syd Coppola has a good eye for set design & costume design, but writing/directing needs work 3 stars
5/10/00 Stefano maybe failing in deeply exploring the teens' world, but it's poetic and touching 4 stars
5/07/00 PJ Great movie, great soundtrack, great acting, original, beautiful, just great 5 stars
4/27/00 Robert I Cruickshank The auto-comment says it all: worth a look. I liked the movie, despite its numerous holes. 4 stars
4/18/00 violetta Incredibly brilliant, touching, never conventional. 5 stars
4/17/00 Mairi Thomas Brilliantly evocative of 70's chilhood and barmy parents. Dreamy ultra-cool soundtrack. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Apr-2000 (R)

UK
  N/A (15)

Australia
  10-Aug-2000 (MA)




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