Tuesday, January 10, 2006

[DVD] The Virgin Suicides (1999)

This film was Sofia Coppola's feature film directorial debut, based upon the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's actually a sad tale recounting the lives of five sisters, as perceived by a group of teenage boys who admire them from afar.

The Lisbon sisters (from youngest to oldest, starting from 13 years and each a year apart) - Cecilia (Hanna Hall), Lux (the recognizable Kirsten Dunst), Bonnie (Chelse Swain), Mary (A.J. Cook) and Therese, live an extremely sheltered and protective life from their parents, played by James Woods and Katheleen Turner.

The beginning is quite abrupt with the death (an apparent suicide) of youngest daughter Cecilia, impaled by the garden fence. The town is shocked, but somehow, as the boys observed, the other sisters seemed to take it in their stride. These boys serve as eyewitnesses to a tale of their own fantasy of befriending the sisters, as they dream of taking them out on road trips, to the outside world.

However, one other boy did make contact and succeeded, with his own group of friends, to get the girls out to the Homecoming. Played by Josh Hartnett, the coolest guy in school, Trip Fontaine, however suave he might be, turns out to be a marijuana smoking jock who's only for a session of "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am". When Lux fails to return home together with her sisters (she was making out in the middle of a field), Mr and Mrs Lisbon go ballistic, and confined the girls in their home, like prisoners in their cells.

As the younger boys engage in a series of voyeuristic observations, and eventually establishes contact with the Lisbon sisters, it's a case of too little, too late. They try to rationalize, account for, and piece together the events of that faithful night, but could not come to a satisfactory conclusion.

And that's where some might find this film wanting, with some subplots never fully explained, or shown on screen. But that's the way the narrative is, from the flawed memories of young boys who never fully understood the events, nor are close to the girls enough to know their thoughts and dreams. They can only speculate, and fantasize, and that's about it.

The visuals are kept simple, but made an impact nonetheless with the sisters' deaths (ok, with a title like that, you don't think they make it out alive, do you?). Plenty of soulful music make up the soundtrack, but none more meaningful that the haunting sounds of Playground LOve.

While the film might have taken a pot shot at unreasonable and strict parental upbringing, it didn't evoke enough strength to see it through beyond mere suggestion. But for what it is, this movie is intriguing, though it poses quite a bit of questions on what could have happened.

Code 1 DVD contains the theatrical trailer, a making of featurette, a photo gallery and a music video.

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