*Spoiler Alert*: not all of them are quite the virgins that the title makes you think. Teeehee
This is the story about a group of teenage boys who delve into the mysteries of womanhood through their discovery of a personal diary belonging to the beautiful Lisbon sisters. The five girls, Cecilia (Hanna R Hall), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Bonnie (Chelsea Swain), Mary (AJ Cook) and Therese (Leslie Hayman), are aged 13 to 17 respectively. Through the diary the boys start to learn about the girl’s lives, coming to hold the girl’s collective memories and experiences as their own.
Writer/director Sofia Coppola is just one of those directors that has her own type of style, and it’s either you love it or you absolutely loathe it. Somehow I found myself in the middle but this flick definitely makes me think more of her in a good way.
This premise isn’t a very happy and light one, but Coppola gives it this stylish and compelling treatment that is sure to win anybody over right away even as grim as the material may be. Copp0la perfectly matches the look and feel of the 70’s with all of the tacky designs, poofed up hair, and rockin’ soundtrack, but there’s just something that Coppola brings here that makes it worth noting more than just a fine looking period piece. Some shots in this flick are beautiful to look at, with Coppola bringing plenty of real-looking hand-held camera footage that gives it this realistic look, but there are also some shots that are not just beautiful but also devastating. There’s a lot of color in this flick but also a lot of darkness and even though the story may take place in a sunny part of Detroit, I couldn’t still help but be placed inside this dark, sheltered, and cooped up world that these girls also had to live in as well.
Coppola also shines when it comes to creating a compelling story that shows 70’s suburbia for what it was for some families, and the effects it would have on the children. The film’s subject material is very disturbing (I mean suicide is never a fun subject to talk about) but it’s not like Coppola depends on that to have us feel something for these characters. We sense that there will be dread coming on its way soon but we can’t help but get lost in these girls’ stories and just how they are constantly being strangled by their parents control, just so they can be safe from the cruel and outside world. I liked how we see an outside view telling us about this story because it doesn’t give us every single little detail about these girls’ lives, but just the right amount to where we are actually able to connect parts of the puzzle together and understand what really made these girls tick after all.
Where the film really shined for me was how it accurately showed the way two opposite sexed teenagers react with one another. Being a young adult like myself, my awkward teenage years are pretty much behind me but I can remember those days when it was so hard for me to actually talk to girls because all that I could keep on thinking about was how big their boobs are. Yes, if you were a teenage boy, you always thought like this no matter what girl you were talking to and this film shows that incredibly well here. I loved when this film focused on these girls and their reactions to other people, especially boys, and it also made many moments that through me off guard by how darkly funny they were. It’s about suicide, but it’s also quite funny. Good job Sofia!
Where this film really lost me was about the last act when the film really starts to stumble and I think lose some steam. The main story-line that has to do with the high-school hunk and Lux, was probably the highlight of the movie for me, so when that seems to go bye bye, the film also seemed to say the same thing to creativity as well. Instead of actually making a compelling ending, Sofia depends more on making everything look cool that seems more like her attempt to get past the fact that she can’t come up with an ending that will truly hit us where it hurts. The motives of these girls also come up a little too late for us to ever really believe in it in the first place, and when they show this random-ass party where all of these rich people are partying with gas-masks seems exploitative and unneeded. I think if they ended the film a little earlier it would have had a better effect overall, but it was just a shame that the last act seemed to just drag.
What really got me into the authenticity of this flick was the fact that almost everybody that’s cast here, were all pretty damn close to the ages of the characters they were playing. This is a huge cast, that features some familiar faces we have seen before but there is only a couple that really stand-out for me. Kirsten Dunst is amazing here as Lux, the sexy and bad girl of the family and just about every scene she has feels real and how a teenage girl would act, if she was given a chance to just break-out. Josh Hartnett is also great in the role as the high-school hunk, Trip, and he was such a delight every time he popped up on-screen that I honestly wish they had more of him but then again, the amount that he did actually have felt right. James Woods and Kathleen Turner are also great in these roles as the mommy and daddy and even though their characters may not be as fully fleshed-out as I would have liked to have seen, they still were very restrained which is a huge surprise from both of them.
Consensus: The Virgin Suicides may start to disappoint once it comes to its final act, but Sofia Coppola’s debut still features a stylish direction that adds so much more to this compelling story than just your usual teenager story, as well as the great ensemble cast that feels real and authentic as if you are watching real people on-screen.