There is an air of mystery to The Virgin Suicides that begins with the opening scene and never relents. You can tell from the opening moments that you aren’t going to fully understand or comprehend this story and although it is a captivating one, it is also a movie which leaves you with more questions than answers.
The focus of the film is five teenage sisters who interest, entice and captivate the local community and the story of a tragedy that seems to define them. This is a movie of awkward moments, stolen exchanges and some very funny incidents suddenly punctuated by shocking violence or terror. All of this is handled very well by director Sofia Coppola.
Already making a name for herself with roles and films written from a strong female perspective, The Virgin Suicides is no different. The five sisters at the centre of the story all have distinct personalities and although they each get a piece of the story, it is rebellious Kirsten Dunst which steals the scenes. Here Dunst is giving one of her best performances. A film which requires her to be vulnerable, naïve, tormented but also in complete control of the male cast. It offers an insight into why she became such a huge star (a momentum which seems to have dwindled later in her career).
Coppola also helps push this story forward with distinct but unique direction. Coppola’s films never take the standard route and her trademark style of punchy cuts, iconic soundtracks and quotable dialogue is no different here. It is just a shame that some of that iconic feel doesn’t stretch to the male characters.
Not all the male characters suffer, James Woods as the father of the sisters gives an understated and bizarre performance which adds some light-relief tinged with tragedy; a fine balancing act which he achieves with no issue. It is the roles of the teenage boys who narrate the tale which cause the issue. They feel interchangeable and have no real individual identities. At times you aren’t sure they are the same characters throughout and when they do begin to take centre-stage, it starts to take the intrigue away from the story.
Not that the intrigue would lead you anywhere satisfying anyway. The title is a huge spoiler for the outcome of this movie but that doesn’t make it any clearer. The reasoning and motives behind the actions of the titular characters are not clear and when the aforementioned scenes finally do arrive, it comes suddenly and without fanfare, leading to an ending too ambiguous and too strange to feel satisfying.
Overall, The Virgin Suicides is a movie which will intrigue but at times infuriate. It is a story which will keep you entertained and interested, with characters and performances that you will invest in, but it leads to a sloppy conclusion which feels rushed and under-developed.
Rating – 3.5
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