The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Before we get to my Blind Spot for February, I want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for the support on my last post, you people are simply incredible!

I hope we don’t have to like our Blind Spot films.

It wouldn’t be fair, though, right? The Virgin Suicides is based on a novel I liked a lot, Sofia Coppola made my favourite film, her style compares well to Eugenides’s and there’s Kirsten Dunst (who I didn’t know I loved but do.) And yet I thought the film was a bust.

There’s too much telling and not enough showing — damn you, voiceovers! I understand that it’s not easy to adapt The Virgin Suicides since it is told about five girls by a group of boys — who are, essentially, creepers. But that’s not our problem, the director should figure that one out. So, is it just me or is Coppola actually a bit… lazy?

Thankfully, there are other things that more or less save the film, starting with a very dreamy colouring and beautiful, often original style. Just look:

There were some hit-and-misses along the film — overlays1 — but other than that, the dreamy and beautiful setting was almost enough of a distraction from the  storytelling which so often broke the romantic atmosphere. I don’t know if it’ll bother others and I’m declined to think that it won’t, but the film did no justice for the depth of the book. Is Coppola shallow? Do I actually not like Sofia Coppola? These were the thoughts I kept having throughout the film. I didn’t care for the Lisbon girls, and I hated the guys below since all I could see in the film was how goddamn creepy they were.

The other great thing about this film is Kirsten Dunst. She’s impeccable as Lux, holding perfect balance between her innocence and outrageousness. The other girls are astonishingly dull and given so little attention that I couldn’t tell if it was because their actresses weren’t good or if that was Coppola’s intention. The girls’ dad, James Woods, was hilarious in his desperate attempts to make as much conversation as possible to any boy who could’ve been a son to him, and Michaél Pare as the adult Trip Fontaine, Lux’s first love, was just plain fun to watch.

But ultimately, the point of this review is. . . Sofia Coppola, I’m on to you.

The Blind Spot Series is a blogathon led by Ryan at The Matinee, where the aim is to watch an essential film every month for a year. You can find my choices for 2014 here.

1 And I’ll even forgive those, considering it was the nineties and everything was cheesy.

32 responses to “The Virgin Suicides (1999)

  1. I’ll read this closer tomorrow – but briefly; no, you don’t have to like all your blind spots. Watching is the key – loving is a happy coincidence.

  2. When I walked out of this movie I remember feeling stupid for not understanding the hype. I liked parts of it but mainly because of Dunst (this cemented for me how much I liked Kristin Dunst too). Coppola really does know how to create mood. The feel of the film is so eerie and creepy. You came away puzzled, very much like the boys did (not sure how this plays out in the book – I didn’t read it).

    I’m intrigued to know though what made the book so much better?
    Cheer 🙂

    • The book had a lot more subtlety in my opinion and just… felt more powerful. Maybe I just expected too much from it. But Dunst saved it for me, anyhow. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I haven’t seen this one, but I do think Coppala can hit or miss. Compare Lost in Translation to The Bling Rung, for example. So I guess I’m not stunned she missed here, as well.

  4. I agree with you! As a big fan of the book (love that Eugenides), the movie was ‘just okay’. Even though it was really beautiful.

  5. Such a beautiful movie, and one that I catch myself thinking about a lot from time to time.

  6. Not seen this for a while but I remember quite liking it. Didn’t blow me away or anything but still thought it was pretty good. Great write up 🙂

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  8. I’m glad I’m not the only one that didn’t *love* their Feb Blind Spot. I did enjoy this film, though I’ve never read the book. Great review!

  9. This is one of my all time favourite films so I’m sad you didn’t enjoy it. I understand your problems with it though but, having loved the book too, I thought the film really captured that kind of restless feeling the boys and the girls had as well as all the joys and sadness of being young.

    • Glad you love it, then! I guess it’s just about different taste in films. But hey, I did enjoy it, I just, well, thought it would be so much better… 😀

  10. Damn, I still haven’t seen my February movie 🙂 I liked Virgin Suicides, but I didn’t read the book, so maybe that was the reason. I didn’t find the guys all that creepy based on this movie.

  11. I kind of completely agree with you here, although I really liked the movie….but I LOVED the book. With a different director, this may have translated from page to screen a little smoother, but it’s obvious it’s definitely a Sophia film. I can’t quite put my finger on what it lacked, because this IS a toughie to put on screen, but Sophia did a great job at showing over telling. Maybe there should have been more telling though? I’m still not sure.

  12. I remember thinking this movie felt like a dream. A very boring dream, actually.

    Somehow saved only by the wonderful cheekbones of Kirsten Dunst.

    Hmm. Might’ve just earned creeper status with that one.

  13. So here’s food for thought:

    There used to be questions surrounding the direction of TVS. All of them wondered aloud how much “direction” Coppola actually did on this first feature on her resume. The wilder rumours had her father being the person who actually did the work, and the likewise wild rumours had her then-husband Spike Jonze doing the heavy lifting. Neither feels plausible, and futher neither feels fair.

    But one rumour that made the rounds *does* make sense.

    The suggestion was that much of the direction came down to her DP, Edward Lachman. Considering how intertwined a director and cinematographer are, *that* strikes me as quite likely. It could suggest why this film might not “fit” with the rest of Coppola’s resume, and why it was such a handsome effort for a first-time filmmaker.

    Whaddaya think? For better or for worse, might it be possible that there are less of SC’s fingerprints on the finished product than we know?

  14. Nice feature and nice write-up. I’ll be honest, this is a blind spot for me also. You’re not alone!

  15. I love the look and atmosphere of The Virgin Suicides. It’s one of those movies where I can’t recall anything of the story (beyond the final outcome), but there’s enough with the tone to make it work. Even so, it’s not one of my favorite Coppola films and is way behind Lost in Translation. It’s an interesting debut, if nothing else.

  16. I think ‘The Virgin Suicides’ is one of those films that was perhaps ahead of its time. If you look at some of the recent suicides related to ‘sexting,’ it feels like ‘The Virgin Suicides’ would be more relevant today than in the 90s. I remember not knowing what to make of the film when I first saw it. It wasn’t a film I had any interest in seeing again, but maybe I need to rewatch it. And yes, I thought those guys were so creepy. I will say that I enjoyed the 70s nostalgia. I agree w/ the poster above, the atmosphere was great.

  17. The Virgin Suicides that’s been on my Netflix list forever – but I just can’t bare to watch it. I fear myself feeling the same you did and not understanding the hype.

  18. The Virgin Suicides is one of my favorite films, but since I have only read positive opinions on it before, it was nice to see someone disliking it. And no, I don’t think you need to like all your blind spots, that’s really not the point of the blogathon. Anyway, since you’ve read the book, I think that may be one of the reasons you didn’t like the film, because books tend to overshadow their film adaptations.

  19. I recently watched this on Netflix, and it left me feeling melancholy and nostalgic. It was beautiful to look at, but also kind of pointless and boring at times. I have read the book. I felt the movie could have used a little more character development, and could have focused a little more on the other Lisbon sisters other than just Kirsten Dunst as Lux. I felt the film was all about her and her point of veiw of the story. While her sisters were just these useless figures of Angelic beauty standing in the background, like shadows. In the book the other sisters were all unique and had more personality / individuality from one another, such as Mary Lisbon. In the film she dies on her first Suicide attempt by putting her head in the oven, but in the book she survives and lives another month, spending all of her time just sleeping and taking six showers a day before finally succeeding in killing herself on the day of another girls Debutant party. I don’t understand why Sofia didn’t include that part? And I don’t understand why the boys were so puzzled as to why the Lisbon girls all killed themselves. The clues were all right in front of their faces. In the book there are even more clues! For example, one of the sisters was seen reportedly crying at the doctors office because she couldn’t get her messed up teeth fixed. In school, the girls attend this posh and rich district but did not live the lifestyle that goes with it. They wear hand me downs and last years clothing. And on the night of the prom, when the girls enter the room, the other girls who go to their school, look at their dresses…and the Lisbon girls know right then and there that the dresses are wrong. So basically, despite the fact that the boys fantasize about the Lisbon girls, viewing them as these magical creatures of purity, the girls feel like freaks and are just -this close- to becoming outcast like Joe the Retard. LThose girls were miserable living in Suburbia. Their mother treats them like prisoners, and no neighbors call the authorities when the girls are taken out of school and denied an education. Are these girls not worth saving? Apparently not. Sorry to anyone if this came off like a Rant…

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