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The Virgin Suicides: Painful To See

Mar 6, 2002 (Updated Mar 6, 2002)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A drama that relies on guns or killing each other.

Cons:Stretched out story would of been better if more concise.

The Bottom Line: Sofia Coppola's first take on writing and directing a film turns out to be too long, too depressing, and in need of a good editor.

A group of boys meet a group of girls who live a very confined life because their parents are unwilling to let them roam the world free. Tragedy, humor, drama, angry parents, emotional outbursts, teenage angst ensue which all come to a conclusion seen a mile away. Also, Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis Ford Coppola) first film, written and directed by her.

The GOOD –

Daily Exercise. Depressing drama that is more of an exercise than it is an enjoyment. If your brain is up to the challenge – you’ll be greeted by excellent performances by all those involved even though they don't shine, but you’ll have to deal with a short story stretched out for almost 2 hours. While watching it, I couldn’t help by think of Elections or Rushmore two movies that felt like an exercise, but by the end and perhaps with multiple viewings, take on new meaning and are not as bad as originally deemed.

What’s In A Name? Sofia Coppola doesn’t make a complete disaster, even if she doesn’t create any original style for herself. But, this is her first outing as a director and she should be given some slack. I in no way resemble my Dad the farmer, so Sophia should in no way be expected to resemble her father from day one. She’s not as bad as normal first time directors who normally place their cameras right in front of their actors faces hopping to catch each small facial hair move during an emotional response – nor does she rely on extra pickup shots meant to somehow piece two different scenes together. She’s calm in her direction, which resembles the calmness of the characters even if they are about to boil over.

Hello It’s Me. There a short scene in the film where the group of boys and the group of girls carry on a discussion by holding the phone up to their record players. The choice of music is perfect as it seems to detail exactly what each group is thinking and how music has replaced their words offering a moment of peace and tranquility. Goes to show that music can at times transcend beyond the background and become an emotional forefront.

The BAD –

Stretch Before Exercising. The Virgin Suicides could easily be condensed to no more than a 30 minute television episode with commercials. Granted a lot of the essence of the film would be lost on the cutting room floor – but much of it seems like it’s there simply to prolong the film to reach that celebrated 90 minute mark. And when it’s all over the movie just seems to end. That’s it! Thanks for watching!

All of the Performances. Yes, even Kathleen Turner doesn’t shine. Yes, even James Woods, even Josh Hartnett, and (gasp!) even Kristen Dunst. All of the performances are bogged down by stretch marks since they never quite get a chance to shine, nor do they get a chance to make much sense, simply because the movie doesn’t want them to until the concluding minutes. Not even the young actors can save this movie.

What’s In a Word? Even though the trailers detail this to be a movie involving small children – this movie may be a little too much for the younger audience, that is, if they can get through it all in the first place. I don’t want to spoil too much of the movie – but let’s just say the word “suicides” is not meant in an artsy-fartsy kind of a way.


Lux Lisbon. (Kristen Dunst) – plays her character on the verge of suicide, unable to smile, even though it’s very clear throughout the film that she very much would like to smile. She’s the older rebel teenager that gets the most out of sexual exploration, even if her character is a virgin when it comes to handling her emotions.

Mrs. Lisbon. (Kathleen Turner) – plays the overbearing mother who protects her daughters by shutting them off from society. What she forgot to read was that little pamphlet on household dangers when it comes to kids.

Mr. Lisbon. (James Woods) – plays the overbearing yet slightly “not all there” father who protects his daughters by shutting them out almost completely simply because they are not on the same “brain length” as he is (he’s a professor!).

Trip Fontaine. (John Hartnett) – Hartnett sheds his more recent cute style for a 70’s cute style. So far his career hasn’t allowed him to truly shine in a movie. Then again, I haven’t seen “O” yet and I’ve heard some rave reviews from his performance in that film.

The Young Actors. Each gives a convincing performance as “boy’s who just wanna have fun” (sorry, wrong decade), even though they, like everyone else, get lost in the puddle of mud also known as the plot.


There Has To Be One. Since it’s a requirement of any film that has a beginning, the film must have an ending. But, the “ending” of The Virgin Suicides is not as important as the film’s progression. The title of the film alone can pretty much guarantee that just about anyone could figure out what happens in the end – even if you are unsure of exactly who the word is in reference too (and NO, I’m not about to say!). If you do find yourself interested in watching The Virgin Suicides - even if someone like me cannot recommend it because of it’s slow and boring pace – just know that the movie is more about what happens after the beginning and before the ending. If you are waiting in anticipation of how it all ends – you either walked in on this movie in the middle, or just don’t have the ability to recognize foreshadowing that even begins with the title of the film.


The Virgin Suicides is a quaint drama with a plot stretched out about as far as it can be. It doesn’t snap back and slap everyone in the face – but it did bore the heck out of me (I lost my rubber band analogy there). If the story had just been better – then without a doubt the performances and the direction by Sofia Coppola would of also instantly become better. But, without a more concise plot the movie drags and becomes more of an exercise to keep your eyes open, than an enjoyable drama. Good rental, yes – because rentals are so cheap these days (especially on Netflix!). Good purchase, nah, only if you’ve rented it first and enjoyed it. Good on Cable TV, yeah, even better. Perhaps the edited for time allowed and content will be just what this movie needs. For now, not recommended. But check it out if you have some extra time. Heaven knows, I could be wrong.

Recommend this product? No

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Based on the 1993 novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES tells the dreamlike tale of the Lisbons, a family living in a sheltered 1970s suburb...
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