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''The Virgin Suicides'' is a 1999 American
drama film In film and television show, television, drama is a category of narrative fiction (or docudrama, semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humour, humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify ...
written and directed by
Sofia Coppola Sofia Carmina Coppola (, ; born May 14, 1971) is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and actress. The daughter of filmmakers Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola, she made her film debut as an infant in her father's acclaimed crime drama f ...

Sofia Coppola
(in her feature directorial debut), co-produced by
Francis Ford Coppola Francis Ford Coppola (; ; born April 7, 1939) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He was a central figure in the New Hollywood filmmaking movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest fi ...
, and starring James Woods,
Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner
, Kirsten Dunst,
AJ Cook
AJ Cook
and Josh Hartnett. The film also features Scott Glenn, Michael Paré, and Danny DeVito in minor roles, with voice narration by Giovanni Ribisi. ''The Virgin Suicides'' is based on the 1993 best selling The Virgin Suicides, debut novel of the same name by the American author Jeffrey Eugenides. The film follows the lives of five adolescent sisters, in an Upper middle class, upper-middle-class suburb of Detroit during the late 1970s. After the youngest sister, Cecilia, makes an initial attempt at suicide, all of the girls are put under close scrutiny by their parents, eventually being confined to their home, which leads to their increasingly depressive and isolated behavior. As in the novel, the film is told in Grammatical person, first person plural, from the perspective of a group of adolescent boys in the neighbourhood who are fascinated by the girls. Shot in 1998 in Toronto, the film was director Sofia Coppola's debut feature. It features an original score by the French electronic band Air (band), Air. The film premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, and received a limited release, limited theatrical release on April 21, 2000 in the United States, later expanding to a wide release in May 2000. The film was met with largely positive critical reception, with both the performances and Coppola's direction receiving note. It was also praised for its lyrical representation of adolescent angst, visual style, and soundtrack, and is now recognized as a Cult film, cult classic. In 2015, the film ranked number 39 on ''Entertainment Weekly'''s list of the "50 Best High School Movies". The film marked the beginning of a working relationship between Coppola and star Kirsten Dunst, whom Coppola would cast as the lead in several films in the following years.


Plot

In the sleepy suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a group of neighborhood boys—now grown men—reflect upon their memories of the five Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17, in the late 1970s. Unattainable due to their overprotective Catholic parents, math teacher Ronald Lisbon and his homemaker wife Sara, the girls—Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux, and Cecilia—are enigmas who fill the boys' conversations and dreams. During the summer, the youngest sister, Cecilia, slits her wrist in a bathtub, though she survives. After her parents allow her sisters to throw a chaperoned basement party intended to make Cecilia feel better, she excuses herself and successfully ends her life by leaping from her second story bedroom window onto a spiked iron fencepost below. In the wake of Cecilia's suicide, the Lisbon parents watch over their four remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family from their community and heightens the air of mystery surrounding the girls, particularly to the neighborhood boys. At the beginning of the new school year in the fall, Lux forms a secret and short-lived romance with Trip Fontaine, the school heartthrob. In hopes of becoming closer to Lux, Trip comes over to the Lisbon residence and watches television with the family. Trip persuades Mr. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the homecoming dance by promising to provide dates for Therese, Mary and Bonnie, and going as a group. After winning homecoming King and Queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch their group and have sex on the football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep and Trip abandons her. At dawn, Lux wakes up alone and has to take a taxi home. Having broken curfew, Lux and her sisters are punished by a paranoid Mrs. Lisbon by being taken out of school and confined to the house indefinitely. Isolated and increasingly depressed, the sisters contact the boys across the street by using light signals and sharing records over the telephone to express their emotions and share their feelings. During this time, Lux rebels against her parents and becomes overtly promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of her house late at night with random boys and men; the neighborhood boys spy from across the street. After months of confinement, the sisters begin to leave notes outside for the boys. The girls eventually send a final note to the boys asking them to come over at midnight, ostensibly to escape from their house. When the boys finally arrive that night, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. Thinking they're going to help the girls escape, the boys are invited inside by Lux to wait for her sisters, while she goes to start the car. Curious, the boys wander into the basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie's body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Horrified, the boys rush back upstairs, only to stumble across the body of Mary in the kitchen who has put her head in the gas oven. The boys then realize that the girls had all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact moments earlier: Bonnie hanged herself; Mary put her head in the oven; Therese overdosed on sleeping pills upstairs; and Lux died of carbon monoxide poisoning by leaving the car engine running in the garage. Devastated by the suicides of all their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon quietly flee the neighborhood and are never seen again. Mr. Lisbon has a friend clean out the house and sell the family belongings in a yard sale; family photos and other mementos are put out with the trash and collected by the boys. The house is sold to a young couple from the Boston area. Unsure of how to react to the events, the adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing tramatic really happened, but the boys cannot stop thinking about the Lisbon sisters and why they killed themselves. Now middle-aged men themselves, they acknowledge that they had always loved the girls, and that the mystery of the Lisbon sisters will never be truly solved.


Cast

* James Woods as Ronald Lisbon * as Mrs. Lisbon * Kirsten Dunst as Lux Lisbon * Josh Hartnett as Trip Fontaine ** Michael Paré as Adult Trip Fontaine * A. J. Cook as Mary Lisbon * Hanna R. Hall as Cecilia Lisbon * Leslie Hayman as Therese Lisbon * Chelse Swain as Bonnie (Bonaventure) Lisbon * Jonathan Tucker as Tim Weiner * 40 (record producer), Noah Shebib as Parkie Denton * Robert Schwartzman as Paul Baldino * Scott Glenn as Father Moody * Danny DeVito as Dr. E. M. Horniker * Hayden Christensen as Jake Hill Conley * Joe Dinicol as Dominic Palazzolo * Sherry Miller as Mrs. Buell * Kristin Fairlie as Amy Schraff * Sally Cahill as Mrs. Hedlie * Giovanni Ribisi as Narrator (voice)


Production


Conception

Coppola wrote the script for the film in 1998 after the project was already greenlit at another studio, adapting it from the source novel, of which she was a fan. Another script had already been written by Nick Gomez, but the production company that owned the rights at the time, Muse Productions, was dissatisfied with the script. After the rights to the novel lapsed, Coppola pitched her manuscript to Muse executives Roberta and Chris Hanley, the latter of whom signed on to co-produce. Coppola was inspired to write the film after reading the source novel: "I really didn't know I wanted to be a director until I read ''The Virgin Suicides'' and saw so clearly how it had to be done," she said. "I immediately saw the central story as being about what distance and time and memory do to you, and about the extraordinary power of the unfathomable." * * *


Casting

Kathleen Turner was the first actor to sign on to the project, playing the Lisbon girls' oppressive mother; Turner had known Coppola after they co-starred together in ''Peggy Sue Got Married'' (1986). James Woods was cast opposite Turner as the passive father; Woods was given the script by Coppola's father, Francis, and was so impressed by the script and the character's "dark humor" that he agreed to play the role. For the part of Lux, Coppola auditioned numerous actresses, but had a "gut choice" of Kirsten Dunst, who was sixteen years old at the time of her casting. Reflecting on the role, Dunst said: "I was nervous. It was my first role that was more of a 'sexy' thing. I was also unsure about how large the role was gonna be, because a lot of it was without dialogue. When I met Sofia, I immediately knew that she would handle it in a delicate way... [she] really brought out the luminous aspect of the girls; she made them like ethereal angels, almost like they weren't really there."


Filming

''The Virgin Suicides'' was filmed in 1999 in Toronto, Ontario, standing in for suburban Detroit, Michigan, on a reported budget of US$6 million. The shoot lasted roughly one month. Coppola was inspired by photographer Takashi Homma's photos of suburban Japan when choosing the filming locations; "I have always been struck by the beauty of banal details," she said, "and that is what suburban style is all about." The film's occasional use of stills and collages was intended to evoke the "fantasia" of adolescence. Cinematographer Edward Lachman shot the film. Coppola's brother, Roman Coppola, was the second-unit director on the film.


Music


Score


Soundtrack

In addition to original score composed for the film by Air (band), Air, the film features songs by 1970s-era performers and five tracks from the 1990s by Sloan (band), Sloan.
Sofia Coppola Sofia Carmina Coppola (, ; born May 14, 1971) is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and actress. The daughter of filmmakers Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola, she made her film debut as an infant in her father's acclaimed crime drama f ...

Sofia Coppola
wanted to convey the theme of adolescence in the suburbs in the soundtrack. She found that Air shared many of her suburban memories and experiences even though they grew up in a different country. A separate soundtrack album was released in 2000 featuring music from Todd Rundgren, Boston (band), Boston, Heart (band), Heart, Sloan (band), Sloan, The Hollies, Al Green, Gilbert O'Sullivan, 10cc, Styx (band), Styx, and two tracks by Air (French band), Air (one previously recorded; one composed for the film).


Track listing


Release

The film had its world premiere at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on May 19. It was given a limited release in the United States almost a year later on April 21, 2000. The theatrical release would expand to a wide release in May 2000.


Critical reception

''The Virgin Suicides'' received positive reviews from film critics, though some noted the film's discomforting thematic material. It holds a 77% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 100 reviews, with a Weighted arithmetic mean, weighted average of 7.10/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "''The Virgin Suicides'' drifts with a dreamlike melancholy that may strike some audiences as tedious, but Sofia Coppola's feature debut is a mature meditation on disaffected youth." On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 76 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Jeffrey Eugenides visited the set of the film for three days. He supported the film, but he did offer a few critiques in an interview with "Dazed". Eugenides envisioned the girls as more of an entity than actual people; he believed this idea could have been accomplished by casting different actresses to play the same character with each actress changing depending on whom they are speaking to. Graham Fuller of ''The New York Times'' gave the film a middling review, writing: "Ms. Coppola has made [...] a haunting metaphysical celebration of adolescence with the aura of a myth. Yet, on the surface, there is something wrong with this picture: how can a film in which a quintet of apparently normal girls commit suicide possibly be a celebration, and why would a filmmaker attempt to make it so unless she is uncommonly perverse?" Kevin Thomas (film critic), Kevin Thomas of the ''Los Angeles Times'' gave the film a positive review, unanimously praising Coppola's direction, the cast, and the production design, but also noted that while the film "is successfully venturesome... you need to know that it's also a real downer." Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, and positively compared it to ''Picnic at Hanging Rock (film), Picnic at Hanging Rock'' (1975): "[Coppola] has the courage to play it in a minor key," he notes. "She doesn't hammer home ideas and interpretations. She is content with the air of mystery and loss that hangs in the air like bitter poignancy." Ed Gonzalez of ''Slant Magazine'' noted the film's dreamy, childlike nature, writing: "The narrator speaks of youth as if it existed and still exists in a near-fugue state. In this respect, the film is as much a relevant view of adolescence and male/female relations as it is an act of remembrance. Scenes from the film (first kisses, gossiping about neighbors) are sinewy in nature and seem lifted from the pages of a lost photo album." Critic Richard Crouse called the film "one of those rare occasions when a film surpasses the book it is based on," and included it in his book ''The 100 Best Movies You've Never Seen'' (2003).


Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD through Paramount Home Entertainment on December 19, 2000. On April 24, 2018, a remastered version of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray via The Criterion Collection, featuring new interviews, a behind-the-scenes documentary, an essay, among other features.


Notes


References


Bibliography

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External links

* * * *
''The Virgin Suicides: “They Hadn’t Heard Us Calling”''
an essay by Megan Abbott at the Criterion Collection {{DEFAULTSORT:Virgin Suicides, The 1990s coming-of-age drama films 1990s high school films 1999 independent films 1990s teen drama films 1999 films American coming-of-age drama films American films American high school films American independent films American teen drama films American Zoetrope films Coming-of-age drama films English-language films Films about depression Films about proms Films about sexual repression Films about sisters Films about suicide Films about virginity Films based on American novels Films directed by Sofia Coppola Films produced by Francis Ford Coppola Films set in the 1970s Films set in Michigan Films shot in Toronto Films with screenplays by Sofia Coppola Poisoning in film Women and death 1999 directorial debut films 1999 drama films