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VIRGIN SUICIDES

SYNOPSIS:
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."
Richard Kuipers

"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."
Louise Keller

"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 something special."
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."
Lee Gough

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 4
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

See Jenny Cooney Carrillo's interview with
SOFIA COPPOLA

VIRGIN SUICIDES, THE (MA15+)
(US)

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

MUSIC: Air

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







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