On the surface, the Lisbon family appears to be a healthy, happy 1970s family living in the seemingly perfect middle-class home in a Michigan suburb. Mr. Lisbon is a math teacher, his wife a strict religious type, and together they have five beautiful teenage daughters who are lusted over by all the neighborhood boys. When 13-year-old Cecilia commits suicide, the family begins to degenerate, with the remaining girls being further quarantined from any social interaction by their protective mother, which does much more harm than good to the young girl's fragile psyches. Sophia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides is a meditative study of repression, capturing how forced repression of the most fundamental human desires can lead to tragedy. The Virgin Suicides is a subtle examination first, but as the film progresses it becomes clear that The Virgin Suicides is somewhat vapid, never reaching the true psychological study of its characters it promises from the on-set. Through repression by their mother, these girls become obsessed with boys and the forbidden, but Coppola never spends enough time getting into the psyche of these characters, fully satisfied with painting a superficial portrait of the loss of innocence these woman experience. To be fair, one could certainly argue that this vapid, almost superficial examination is precisely the point, being that much of what we know and see of these characters comes from an outside perspective. While the faults of the screenplay keep The Virgin Suicides from being something truly special, Coppola's direction is impressive, creating a dream-like atmosphere that creates a somber, almost fable-like tone. While The Virgin Suicides lacks emotional resonance, Coppola's The Virgin Suicides is an impressive first feature in which she creates a dream-like study of the loss of innocence.
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