In suburban Michigan of the 1970's live Mr and Mrs Lisbon (James Woods and Kathleen
Turner) and their five teenage daughters. Through the adult recollections of neighbourhood
boy Tim Weiner (Jonathan Tucker) the tragic fate of Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A.J.
Cook), Bonnie (Chelsea Swain), Cecilia (Hanna Hall) and Lux (Kirsten Dunst) unfolds
against a backdrop of adolescent dreams, terror and loss of innocence.
"After a less than promising career start as co-writer of her father's drab New
York Stories (1989) segment and being caught way out of her depth in front of the cameras
in The Godfather Part III (1990), Sofia Coppola has made a stunning debut as director and
writer of this beautifully funny and sad dream of adolescence. It's hard to think of any
film which so perfectly captures the excitement and sheer terror which co-exist during
teenage years than this deeply moving adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel. This is
magic realism at its best – an exhilarating mix of fantasy, mystery and nostalgia
whose five heroines are more than simply sisters who meet tragically early ends. In the
riddle surrounding the Lisbon girls, which obsesses the neighbourhood boys twenty-five
years later, lies a beguiling study of memory and the painful, magical journey from
childhood to adulthood. When child psychologist Danny DeVito tells Cecilia "you're
too young to know how bad life gets" she replies "you've never been a thirteen
year-old girl". Sofia Coppola knows and is perfectly attuned to the material, gliding
beneath the surface of suburban ordinariness to reveal the extraordinary and investigate
the unfathomable. She also has the services of a superb cast. The casting of Kathleen
Turner against type as a dowdy housewife and James Woods as her meek and mild husband
works beautifully, while Kirsten Dunst is mesmerising as Lux. This is a film without
answers to many of its questions and that's exactly as it should be. See this film and be
captivated by the spell it casts."
"Just as American Beauty captured the essence of suburban reality of a seemingly
ordinary family living in an ordinary house in an ordinary street, so too does Sofia
Coppola's accomplished debut The Virgin Suicides in its depiction of impressionable
adolescence. Beautifully written and structured, Coppola entices us into the seductive
world of the beautiful Lisbon sisters, whose fascination and mystique have increased over
the years. Recounted as a fable, the passage of time has magnified the allure of these
golden nymphs, who were the subject of lust of every teenage boy in the neighbourhood.
With an air of gentle expectancy, we are hypnotised by the magic of romantic notions,
idealism and the wonder of innocence. This is a story about illusion. The reality (making
out in the hush of the night in an empty football field) is a sobering revelation. It's a
complex and bewitching film – gorgeous to look at with stunning cinematography and
production design. Kirsten Dunst is beguiling as Lux, whose sexuality is flaunted as
surely as a predator taunting prey. All the performances are assured, with James Woods'
marvellously subtle but memorable, hopelessly dominated husband and father. It has the
mystique of Picnic at Hanging Rock, the undercurrent of Heavenly Creatures and the magic
of good cinema. The Virgin Suicides is a haunting and ethereal work that captures the
drama of adolescence – fantasy and reality."
"As powerfully written and performed as American Beauty, The Virgin Suicides is
set in the same middle American suburban ambiance where death-defying feats of human
emotional endurance are everyday occurrences - just hidden from tabloid view. It is one of
those films where all the elements come together superbly, haunting us with a recognisable
resonance. This is American society exploring itself with all the honesty and courage of
its most celebrated cinema more than a half century ago. The excellent adaptation is
handled with assurance, and the casting deserves an Oscar. But it goes beyond those
individual elements; like all great cinema, the film gathers itself into a force that is
greater than just the sum of its parts. It generates a tone of haunting melancholy that
draws us into the storyteller's point of view as part and parcel of the exposition
process, so that we share the feelings of the characters as if they were our family and
friends - American accents, culture and idiosyncrasies notwithstanding. The Virgin
Suicides is riveting drama, delivered with a lightness of touch that elevates it to
Andrew L. Urban
"The Virgin Suicides marks a stunning debut for Sofia Coppola. It a most assured
piece of work, but a first film none the less. Coppola's achievements are many. She evokes
such an ethereal quality in this piece and still manages to address so many teen issues.
Make that life issues, as the key to the tragedy/mystery is a loss of innocence. And this
loss of innocence for so many of us is both a mystery and a tragedy. Based on the book of
the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides, Coppola's screenplay explores that passage to
adulthood on so many levels. The parents never gave that innocence a chance. Kathleen
Turner gives a stunning performance as the overbearing, overprotective Mrs Lisbon who is
entirely unable to trust her daughters to find their own way. The brilliance of the
performance though is the empathy she manages to evoke. Balanced against this is another
performance entirely against type by James Woods as the hopelessly ineffectual Mr Lisbon.
Coppola certainly knows how to direct her actors, evoking a most alluring turn from
Kirsten Dunst as the Lisbon girl who dares. Again, the passage to adulthood is a rough one
here as it is for school heartthrob Trip Fontaine and the four boys who watch the girls'
every move from a window opposite the Lisbon house. All of this works wonderfully.
Reservations remain with some irony not hitting the mark and, more importantly, a certain
lack of soul. This will no doubt come. Coppola has a great future."
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VIRGIN SUICIDES, THE (MA15+)
CAST: James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, Hanna R. Hall, Chelse
Swain, AJ Cook
DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
PRODUCER: Francis Ford Coppola, Julie Costanzo, Dan Halsted, Chris Hanley
SCRIPT: Sofia Coppola, from the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Edward Lachman
EDITOR: Melissa Kent, James Lyons
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jasna Stefanovic
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 10, 2000
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: February 23, 2001
VIDEO SELLTHROUGH RELEASE: August 10, 2001