The Virgin Suicides (1999)

(On DVD, September 2016) Director Sofia Coppola’s films have been hit-and-miss as far as I’m concerned, and The Virgin Suicides won’t settle anything in either direction. I’m certainly not the target audience for a film trying to make sense of the suicide of five sisters, often seen from the perspective of the male teenagers who almost worship them. It’s a film that delves into nostalgia (as narrated from a perspective years later, looking back on the seventies), plays in nuances, doesn’t offer a definitive conclusion and likes to spend time with its characters without necessarily advancing the plot. Dramatic ironies abound—such as when the boys plan a rescue and find out that their help is irrelevant. The subject matter makes it a sad movie, but its execution is perhaps not always as sad as you’d suppose it from the premise. Kirsten Dunst is very good as the oldest sister, while Kathleen Turner and James Woods also make an impression as the parents; perhaps inevitably, most other performers recede in the background of an ensemble cast. The Virgin Suicides certainly offers a change of pace from strongly plot-driven film, so it takes a leisurely frame of mind to appreciate the film in its subtleties. As with other Sofia Coppola movies, I can’t help thinking that there is something in there that I can’t reach.

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