The Virgin Suicides

Alisa and I just watched Sophia Coppola’s sophomore effort (if you count Lick the Star) on DVD, and I liked it, but I’m not sure why. It’s not that I can’t speak about it, but more that I can’t point specifically to what along the way grabbed me. Perhaps it’s the bias built in by liking Lost in Translation so much, or perhaps it’s the Air soundtrack (doubtful). It’s not on my top 25 or anything, but it’s a well-crafted film and worth watching.

The film is… hmmm… it’s what it strives to be, if that makes sense. It’s more evocative than narrative, and more tangental than explicit. I don’t know whether this is intentional or not, but it artfully echoes the theme/ narrative delivery of the story. From the narration to the colors, it’s a series of imperfect pieces collected and arranged from tragically thin memories in an attempt to recreate the alluring and mysterious girls that captivated the boys drawn to them, forming them and the men they become.

As in Lost in Translation, Coppola seems to tell everything but the story, letting the purity and thoroughness of the surrounding detail and the moments between characters carry the weight of unfolding the plot. The dead-on narration by Giovanni Ribisi (an excellent actor, also in the aforementioned film) also provides one of the most integral pillars in the construction of this film.

The title, of course, makes the most dramatic plot events secondary, so the details have to hold the audience and provide the drama. They do, and they do it well. The dramatic, emotional confusion of the teenage years is captured and given weight, deftly avoiding the trite cuteness that a teen coming-of-age comedy puts on our adolescent fits and starts, cutting the deep, alternating grooves of melancholy and exuberance we experience(d) in those moments.

Interestingly enough, it’s the very same features that give the film strength that make me both eager and hesitant to read the novel (written by Jeffrey Eugindes) on which it’s based. The construction of the narration immediately formed visions in my mind of what the novel could be, and it excited me to consider such longing, mournful, and nostalgic monologue. However, I’m a very plot-oriented reader, so it also puts me off a bit for reading. However, the author did win a Pulitzer for Middlesex (which has a great cover for its paperback edition), so I’m questioning my hesitance.


We’ll see.

One reply on “The Virgin Suicides

  1. you know, for someone who was single-handedly, as an actress, pointed out as the achilles heel of ‘the godfather 3″ (it wasn’t the bad script, or nowhere plot, nah), she has really found an interesting groove – or niche – as a director.

    i never saw ‘lick the star’ (although i am curious), however, i did enjoy both ‘the virgin suicides’ and ‘lost in translation.’ one thing i enjoyed about ‘the virgin suicides’ was the seemingly 70’s hue the film had (like older family photos from that era that have a yellowed wash to them) i felt like i was watching a film that was shot in 1975. to me, that little touch, not just the clothing, music and cars, just intensified the experience.

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