By Nicole Kobie
Was there ever someone you knew you’d never forget? For four boys in 1975 Michigan, those girls are the Lisbon sisters, Cecilia, Terese, Mary, Bonnie and Lux. Their beauty, allure, mystery and dramatic actions make them unforgettable.
Such is the premise of The Virgin Suicides, a finely crafted drama about the Lisbon girls, narrated by the boys who loved them most.
The movie begins with the attempted suicide of the youngest, Cecilia. The Lisbon parents, worried and concerned, take her to a counselor who suggests all the girls need more contact with boys their age. Not prone to argue with a doctor, the Lisbons hold a party. That night, Cecilia succeeds at suicide, leaping from a window onto the garden fence.
The family keeps to themselves for the rest of the summer, but come fall, the remaining girls return to school, acting as though nothing happened.
The beautiful Lisbon sisters become the most sought after girls in school. Lux is pursued by the school charmer, Trip Fontaine. Eventually, he asks her father for permission to take Lux to the homecoming dance. Mr. Lisbon agrees. Lux and Trip disappear for the night, causing the parents to withdraw the girls from school and keep them locked in the house.
A group of obsessed boys spy on the Libsons, eventually becoming their only contact with the outside world.
When the film ends, and the credits roll, it’s impossible not to wonder why the Lisbon girls were so tormented and you wish you could have done something about it–just as the boys feel.
Debut director Sophia Coppola lets the audience view the girls from the same eyes as the boys. Her skill is evident throughout the film. Some scenes are unforgettable, such as one where Mrs. Lisbon forces Lux to burn her records. Others are heartwarming, such as when the boys play music to the imprisoned girls via the phone. The dialogue tells of the times when the family’s priest informs Mrs. Lisbon that Cecilia’s death is to be listed as an accident. Somewhat choppy cinematography does not steal from the scenes.
The actors do an incredible job portraying the intense, well-written characters. James Woods is perfectly cast as the out of the loop, distracted father, while Kathleen Turner is perfectly frightening as the domineering mother. Kirsten Dunst creates a Lux Lisbon who is seductive, not slutty, and completely believable. Josh Hartnett is charming as bad-boy Trip Fontaine.
The Virgin Suicides opens May 19.