The Virgin Suicides (1999)

VirginSuicideswinkI’ve willfully and skillfully avoided The Virgin Suicides ever since it came out. Something about Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst together turned me off just about as much as possible. I once again must admit to my mistake; I should have watched this thing a long time ago.

Based on Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel of the same name, The Virgin Suicides tells the story of the Lisbon family. Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner) is an uptight, God-fearing Catholic. Her husband, Ronald (James Woods) is the math teacher at the local high school. Together, they managed to create five lovely daughters: Mary, Therese, Cecilia, Lux and Bonnie. The girls are a mystery to a group

Distraught Lisbon girls.

Distraught Lisbon girls.

of local boys, who are confused enough about their own sexuality let alone that of the Lisbon girls. Everything is thrown into deeper mystery when the youngest Lisbon girl, Cecilia, unsuccessfully attempts suicide. Somehow the boys get hold of her diary and try to figure out just why she’d do such a thing. Even after poring over every page, they still couldn’t figure it out.

Things get worse for the girls after Cecilia successfully kills herself and Lux (Kirsten Dunst) attracts the cutest boy in school, Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett). Trip somehow persuades Mr. Lisbon to grant him permission to take Lux to the homecoming dance, but only if he gets three friends to take all the other sisters along with them. The girls have a great time, but Lux more than oversteps her boundaries, and Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon go

The girls just love Trip Fontaine.

The girls just love Trip Fontaine.

apeshit and decide the only way to keep their girls safe is to lock them up in the house permanently. You can guess what happens from here.

I really liked this movie. Despite its obviously grim subject matter, it’s actually very funny. In some ways, it seemed a little bit like Rushmore‘s angstier little sister. I’ve never read the book, but I understand the film got a lot of backlash for trying to film something that’s unfilmable. I’m curious to read  the book now to see exactly what the naysayers mean, because frankly I think it was done very well. Perhaps it works better if you don’t know the source material? Either way, I liked what the movie had to say; something about the mysteries of puberty and how the 1970’s were no place for the ideals of the 1950’s. Definitely worth a watch.


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