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copyright ©1999-2000

flick pick | The Virgin Suicides 1999
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by: Jeffrey Eugenides (novel), Sofia Coppola
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, James Woods, Kathleen Turner
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something:   
artsy-fartsy, nostalgic, serious
The verdict: Ĺ / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis In a Michigan suburb in the mid-1970s, the five beautiful, blond daughters of high school math teacher Mr. Lisbon inspire lust, love and obsession in the neighborhood boys. Told in dreamy voiceover narration by one of these boys -- now a grown-man -- the tragic story of the five sisters unfolds. Thirteen- year-old Cecilia Ė the youngest and the most cynical -- is the first to kill herself, leaving prissy Mrs. Lisbon even more protective of her daughters than before, just when the girls are beginning to feel like women. All the sisters yearn to get out, explore, live life, but itís fourteen- year-old golden girl Lux whoís the boldest. When super-stud Trip Fontaine falls head over heels for Lux, she plays it cool at first, smiling a Mona Lisa smile as he tries desperately to win her over. Eventually he does, and when he talks her father into letting him take Lux to Homecoming Ė under the condition that heíll make it a group date by finding three guys to escort the remaining sisters Ė the result is an evening that begins in bliss, ends in hurt, and ultimately, leads to even more oppression for the Lisbon sisters.

Review It probably sounds strange when I say that a movie about five girls who committed suicide left me feeling kinda warm and fuzzy inside. But maybe itís because, in the moments when the movie works best, the story isnít so much about five tragic girls as it is about the way that memories of first crushes can stay with you for an eternity, distilled in perfect, pristinely detailed little cinematic scenes that play over and over again in your mind, even when the objects of those crushes have long since disappeared from your life. Like that perfect dance with the perfect boy/girl, as "Come Sail Away" blasts too loud in the lousy acoustics of a high school gym. The Virgin Suicides does a marvelous job of capturing the fragmented, poetic nature of nostalgia and memory (and evoking some of those delicious details of 70s suburban life that, as a girl born in 1974, I only really remember from what Iíve seen in pictures and super-8 movies), but at the same time, these little snippets of events from a past donít quite feel like they lead up to a point. By the end of the film, we donít really know much about any of the characters -- not the girls, nor any of the boys who continue to be haunted by their memories. The discomfort we feel as viewers is that just as we're getting caught up into thinking that maybe we're getting some insight into Lux, the voiceover comes back again, reminding us that all we're hearing is some boy's version of what happened. The Virgin Suicides isnít a movie that hits you with any clear revelations; it's more elusive, wrapping you in a vague ambience of mystery and longing and romance, but leaving you a little frustrated that you canít find out more about the questions of why and how and what really happened. ó reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun 

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