Sofia Coppola is a visionary filmmaker. This, her first film adapted from Jeffery Eugenides' eponymous novel, is a breathtaking statement of originality and unique style, which explores themes of female psychological and emotional isolation, as memories recounted through the eyes of adolescent boys. The feeling of being trapped and ostracised in a man's world is visible through various color symbolism.
I've been haunted by this film for years, now I see it in its entirety and it's nothing. There are great moments of innocence here (the homecoming dance, the morning football field, the dialogue of vinyls), but The Virgin Suicides never succeeds at tackling its central subjects. It chooses to keep an aura of mystery in the middle of suburban clichés, and the illusion is very thin.
"Obviously, doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl"—thus a career was launched. Yes, it's easy to get green-lit if you're a Coppola, but talent is talent, and Sofia already had a dreamy eye for emotive imagery. Whether she has a masterpiece of substantive wisdom to match it is something I'm not sure the last 20 years have answered. But it's lovely to see a close-up on girls' lives done with a woman's savvy.
Tonally this is all over the place, but it does lend a certain kind of charm. There's that very real feeling developed of being locked out of others' subjectivities and really believing them to be much richer and more complex than your own. Voyeuristic fascination with the inner lives of others. Love the close-ups and Coppola's style generally. "Obviously, doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl."
Detached to the point of distraction this is a competently assured account of a period, mood and tone but not much approaching satisfactory drama. Not that one needs things laid on with a trowel but it’s clear early on that this will remain airily evasive to the last instead relying on a too-varied panoply of masking techniques rather than a firm grip on storytelling.
“Virgin Suicides” has haunted me since I first saw it in 2000 – back then it felt somehow very distressing – but now that I watched it again, it felt lighter and funnier despite the tragedy. There’s a lot of gentle humour about life as a teenager, a sort of fantasy world that most of us go through, and not all survive. A good movie that suits well for the first movie date as well, trust me.
After all these years, I decided on a 2nd viewing of The Virgin Suicides to challenge my former indifference when I first saw it at 18. Everyone seemed to love it, except for me! If anything changed it was only for the worst; It magnified the futile vacuity of its content - a pretty pastel colored portrait of teen anxiety and sacrificed youth gazed at through the "cool" lens and numb eyes of Coppola's vision.
This is actually a comedy, an attempt to mine some levity from the conservative Christian values inherent in the American Dream (how else do you explain James Woods' performance?). Unfortunately, it's just not very funny, not dark enough to be a proper black comedy. The end result is something that feels awfully derivative of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm.