By Chris Gore | April 19, 2000

They smell good, they use lip gloss, they’re not very hairy and they’re just plain unpredictable. “The Virgin Suicides” tackles one of life’s most complex mysteries – teenage girls. The story is set in Michigan in the 1970s and centers on the Lisbon sisters — five unattainable teenage girls Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux and Ceclia. These angelic teens are incredibly secretive and keep to themselves. The boys who live in the neighborhood are obsessed with finding out every detail about them.
From the outside, things seem normal. Their dad, played by James Woods is also their high school math teacher, but the real trouble lies with mom, played by Kathleen Turner. She rarely lets the girls out of the house, much less date. When the youngest girl, 13 year-old Cecilia commits suicide, this prompts mother to loosen the reigns a bit and allow the girls to go to their first high school dance. More trouble begins when Lux, played by Kirsten Dunst, takes an interest in a boy played by Josh Hartnett.
Sofia Coppola follows in her father Francis’ footsteps and steps into the director’s chair for her debut feature. I’m amazed Sofia was able to get such great performances out of such a young cast. The entire story is told from the point of view of the neighborhood boys who try to piece together evidence and uncover the reasons behind the film’s tragic ending. While some might be quick to criticize director Sofia Coppola for taking this approach, it oddly works. It would have been too easy simple reasons for their deaths.
The attention to detail is spectacular and I’m not talking about just the clothes, and the kitsch, but focusing on the awkwardness that plagues all kids at this delicate age. The music heard in the film is actually played from vinyl so we actually hear the pops and cracks from dust which really adds to setting the film in its time. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is a stellar debut feature from Sofia Coppola and it’s a must see.

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