Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Virgin Suicides. A-


If you dismiss the ending, which should be taken more symbolically than literally, The Virgin Suicides, directed by Soffia Coppola in her debut behind the camera, is a mostly normal high school melodrama. The premise is irresistible and the style deeply nostalgic for the pre-technology days of high school. Set in seventies suburbia, the story relates the problems faced by five teenaged sisters struggling to maintain normalcy in a cage built by their restrictive, conservative Catholic parents. The mom isn't nearly as bad as the Jesus lover mother from Carrie, (this bears a lot of resemblance to De Palma's 1976 classic), but she's still creepy in the way she tries to control her daughters' lives and rope them into her circle of morals and keep them there. The dad, played nicely by James Woods, is a friendly, easy going guy who clearly doesn't have the same issues with post-modern society as his wife does, but is still just as controlled by her as the daughters are. But while he takes a seat to her and her authority, the daughters, particularly the recalcitrant Lux (Kirsten Dunst), rebel. Yet the movie, though an angry one, never spills over in its depiction of frustration, longing, and teen angst. It's the mark of Soffia Coppola, who can handle a dramatic scene quite naturally, as long as she's not acting in it. While the movie's dramatic elements produce a powerful effect, I think what I liked most about The Virgin Suicides is Coppola's attention to the more basic elements of the narrative. That is to say, those scenes concerning not so much teen love and its results but the details within the days of suburbia. The awkward party in the basement, the young boy invited over for dinner, the group of kids hanging out in their clubhouse, and the father eagerly showing off his plane models. Perfectly excited and perfectly oblivious. The movie has a strange, darkly funny ending that, as I said, can be seen as warning of sorts more than a conclusion to the story. The movie was a little full of itself by the end, but its note was just haunting enough to fit in with the dark tone set throughout the picture. This would make a fine companion to Donnie Darko.

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