The Virgin Suicides (1999)

virgin suicides poster 1999 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Solid first film from Sofia Coppola


Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Virgin Suicides

Studio:   American Zoetrope

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   May 19, 1999 (Cannes Film Festival)/April 21, 2000 (US)

MPAA Rating:   R

virgin suicides lisbon girls a j cook kirsten dunst leslie hayman chelse swain

The Lisbon girls countdown begins…

The Lisbon girls are a mystery to the boys living on the same street in 1970s Grosse Point.  With conservative religious parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Mary (A.J. Cook), Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall), Therese (Leslie Hayman), and Bonnie (Chelse Swain) are beautiful, but sheltered…and rarely are allowed to venture outside of their home unaccompanied.  When Cecilia makes an attempt on her own life, a dramatic chain of events befalls the Lisbon sisters, and the boys of the neighborhood do their best to understand why.

The Virgin Suicides is the premiere feature film of Sofia Coppola who also adapted the critically acclaimed 1993 novel by Jeffrey Eugenides.  The movie premiered at Cannes to positive reviews and gained a cult following over the years.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #920).

When The Virgin Suicides was released, it had a lot of buzz, and being from a strong novel and Sofia Coppola, I had a lot of hope (despite the disaster of The Godfather III).  I wasn’t disappointed by The Virgin Suicides, and now years later, Sofia Coppola has made a name for herself with her first film being a strong outing.

virgin suicides trip fontaine josh hartnett shirtless pool

Trip Fontaine is dreamy

The story is a bit of a puzzle.  You are told the story of the Lisbon girls through the eyes of people who barely know them.  You learn a bit about their personalities (though Lux is the focus of the story…leaving the other sisters a bit underdeveloped), and you are guided like the neighborhood kids into trying to determine what they did and why.  It is the type of movie that you can see differently as a younger person and as an adult, and the benefit of the 2000s versus the 1970s also makes it clear that the girls were in trouble.  Interestingly enough, it is the neighborhood boys who seem to understand it better than the adults which leads to a compelling story.

The cast is strong with Kirsten Dunst giving all the girls heart through her portrayal of Lux.  While the neighborhood boys really aren’t distinguishable enough, this doesn’t matter as much in the context of the movie in comparison to the book.  Both Kathleen Turner and James Woods are great as the perfectly off parents who you feel you know.  Josh Harnett also was a good choice as the “dreamy” Trip Fontaine who perfectly encapsulates the differences between teen boys and teen girls.

virigin suicides music soundtrack kirsten dunst lux

Alone again…naturally

Visually, the movie also is stunning.  Much like Quentin Tarantino, Coppola occasionally pushes the boundaries of her film editing to give the story extra spice (but much more subtly).  It gives the movie a different visual quality and helps connect the characters who are very separated from society…plus, it has a great soundtrack.

The Virgin Suicides is a film that has held up.  It always benefits a movie to be set in the past (even somewhat recent past) because it ages better because it is a period piece.  This combines with a story that can be broken down and discussed (though some parents might be upset by the girls’ ultimate decision).  The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic and will be remembered.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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