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The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Sofia Coppolas the Virgin Suicides

Love Sex Passion Fear Obsession

Directed by:

Sofia Coppola

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 97 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

I’ve been wasting my time thinking of ways to review ‘The Virgin Suicides’ without giving the ending away. Why is that a waste of time? Well, because the ending is already given away by the title. So the real question debutant director Sofia Coppola clearly wants us to ask ourselves during and after watching this thoughtful drama is not “what happened?”, but “why?”.

Basing her screenplay on the Jeffrey Eugenides novel of the same name, Francis Ford’s best-known daughter brings us the story of five teenage sisters and their angsty adolescence in mid-70s Michigan. There’s 13-year-old Cecilia (Hanna Hall), 14-year-old Lux (Kirsten Dunst), 15-year-old Bonnie (Chelse Swain), 16-year-old Mary (A.J. Cook) and 17-year-old Therese (Leslie Hayman). Following the suicide of Cecilia, their parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) take an understandable turn for the wacky and grow ridiculously over-protective of the remaining girls. It’s still not enough, though, to prevent further heartache in the family.

Presented, as it is, from the perspective of Giovanni Ribisi’s lovelorn voiceover, the film keeps a certain distance between the viewer and the girls. As a result it’s sensitive and nostalgic, but also difficult to truly understand what makes the girls tick. There are some fine performances on show – most notably from young Dunst as the most rebellious of the gals – but none of the characters are really as well-developed as Coppola obviously wants them to be. I also found the ending to be just that little bit too far-fetched to be considered truly tragic.

Still, it’s an engrossing piece of film, containing some nice moments of comic relief and a welcome favouring of realism over melodrama – an approach which would later pay even greater dividends for Coppola in her next movie, 2003’s Oscar-winning Lost in Translation. Here, her work is certainly a little rough around the edges, but her potential and blossoming behind-the-camera talent is plain to see. Here’s hoping her next flick, 2006’s ‘Marie-Antoinette’, sees her career continue on its upwardly-mobile path.

It's Got: A blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance from a young Hayden “Anakin Skywalker” Christensen.

It Needs: Not that I’m going to kill myself over it or anything, but a decent range of DVD extras might have been nice.

DVD Extras Pah! Just a trailer. Version reviewed: The Virgin Suicides DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Ghost World, Kids, Thirteen

Summary

A sign of better things to come as Sofia Coppola loses her directorial virginity with this sad, absorbing adaptation.

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