"THE VIRGIN SUICIDES"|
97 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, April 7, 2000
Adapted & directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Josh Hartnett, Hanna Hall, Chelse Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman, Danny DeVito, Michael Paré, Johnathan Tucker & Scott Glenn
This film recieved an honorable mention in the Best of 2000 list.
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
Don't miss this movie, which will captivate almost as much on video as it did on the big screen. Eerie, giddy atmosphere will fill your living room.
VIDEO RELEASE: 12.19.2000
There's no director's commentary track on this DVD, which is a let-down because this movie is so mesmerizing it leaves you itching for details. However, the 23m making-of featurette is true behind-the-scenes stuff (shot by Eleanor Coppola - Sofia's mom), not Entertainment Tonight fluff. Too bad it fails to talk about the inspiration for the book after metioning in passing that it was based on real people.|
NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
Making-of featurette; photo gallery; 1 trailer (although box says 2); music video
1.85:1 ratio; Dolby 5.1; French dub; subtitles
Excellent (although featurette is low-grade)
DVD RATING: ***
Sofia Coppola makes distinguished directorial debut with moody, dark and whimsical 'Virgin Suicides'
Whether it's a skill learned hanging around the sets of her father's movies or something in the family blood, Sofia Coppola has definitely inherited a distinguishable talent as a filmmaker.
"The Virgin Suicides" -- her moody, dark and whimsical first feature from behind the camera -- is a mesmerizing and accomplished directorial debut about an enigmatic quintet of innocently seductive teenage sisters who all kill themselves in the course of one month in the mid-1970s.
The story was adapted by Coppola herself from a best-seller by Jeffrey Eugenides, and is curiously told from the perspective of a handful of neighborhood boys, smitten and spellbound by the girls as teenagers and still haunted by their inexplicable deaths 25 years later.
Wholesomely beautiful Kirsten Dunst ("Dick," "Drop Dead Gorgeous"), an astoundingly unaffected young actress with an intrinsic understanding of her sweetness and budding sexuality, stars as Lux Libson, the middle sister whose quiet rebellious streak makes her the center of the boys' attention.
Just learning to test her temptressness, Lux is the kind of girl that teases as part of a giddy, grand experiment in her power over the opposite sex. She's the leader of the pack when the sisters begin petitioning their strict, quirky parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner, both brilliant) for permission to attend their first ever school dance -- mostly because she's already secured a date with the Trip Fontaine (love that name!), the school's GTO-driving rebel dreamboat played by Josh Hartnett ("Here On Earth").
(In a stroke of ingenious casting, Michael Paré -- the back-alley charmer from "Eddie and the Cruisers" and "Streets of Fire" -- has a cameo as the grown-up Trip, reminiscing about being bewitched by the Libson sisters.)
But when Lux loses her virginity that night and returns home way past curfew (the next morning, in fact), their rigid mom and dad react by pulling the girls out of school completely and locking them away in the house as part of a misguided attempt to both punish and protect them.
Then, one by one, the sisters begin quietly succumbing to morose and overwhelming feelings of angst and eerie ennui with tragic results.
Coppola demonstrates a confident command of all the elements of her medium, giving "Virgin Suicides" a consistently dream-like ambiance. She captures perfectly the fondness and bewilderment the girls inspired in life and especially in death for these mesmerized boys that have never forgotten them.
Visually, atmospherically, emotionally, she nails the fact that this story is being told as it was remembered, not necessarily as it really was. She deliberately does not depict discernible reasons for the girls' suicides, yet through her focus on Lux, she paints an indelible, feminine portrait of them. This in addition to their role as enrapturing, idyllic objects of desire and conundrum in the eyes of the narrating boys.
If the movie has one obvious flaw, it is that Lux's sisters (played by Hanna Hall, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman and Chelse Swain, younger sibling of "Lolita" star Dominique Swain) amount to little more than extras. Coppola chose wisely to focus on only one Libson girl, but the others get so little screen time that they're utterly interchangeable.
Save that, the captivating, catchy and detail-oriented "Virgin Suicides" is one of the most promising directorial debuts in recent memory, with the ability to cast a spell I have yet to shake three weeks after seeing the film.