The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 American drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, produced by her father Francis Ford Coppola based on Jeffrey Eugenides' 1993 best-selling debut novel of the same name, starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett and A. J. Cook.
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
The story takes place in the suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the mid-1970s, as a group of neighborhood boys, now grown men acknowledging in voice-over (narrated by Giovanni Ribisi who speaks for the group as a whole) reflect upon their memories of the five Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17 years old.
Unattainable due to their Catholic and overprotective, authoritarian parents, math teacher Ronald (James Woods) and his homemaker wife (Kathleen Turner), the girls—Therese (Leslie Hayman), Mary (A. J. Cook), Bonnie (Chelse Swain), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), and Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall)—are the enigma that fill the boys' conversations and dreams.
The film opens in the summer with the suicide attempt of the youngest sister, Cecilia, as she slits her wrist in a bath. After her parents allow her to throw a chaperoned basement party intended to make her feel better, Cecilia excuses herself and jumps out of her second story bedroom window, dying when she is impaled on an iron fence below.
In the wake of her act, the Lisbon parents watch over their four remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family from the community and heightens air of mystery about the girls to the neighborhood boys in particular.
At the beginning of the new school year in the fall, Lux forms a secret and short-lived romance with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the school heartthrob. Trip comes over one night to the Lisbon residence in hopes of getting closer to Lux and watches television with the family. Soon Trip persuades Mr. Lisbon to allow him to take Lux to the upcoming Homecoming Dance by promising to provide dates for the other sisters, to go as a group.
After winning Homecoming king and queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch the group and have sex on the school's football field. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep on the grass, and Trip, becoming disenchanted by Lux, abandons her. At dawn, Lux wakes up alone and has to take a taxi home.
Having broken curfew, Lux and her sisters are punished by a paranoid Mrs. Lisbon by being taken out of school. Unable to leave the house, the sisters contact the boys across the street by using light signals and sharing songs over the phone.
During this time, Lux rebels against her repression and becomes promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on the roof of her house late at night; the neighborhood boys spy and watch Lux from across the street.
After weeks of confinement, the sisters leave a note for the boys. When the boys arrive that night, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. She invites them inside to wait for her sisters, while she goes to start the car.
Curious, the boys wander into the dark basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie's body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Horrified, they rush back upstairs only to stumble across the body of Mary in the kitchen.
The boys realize that the girls had all killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact: Bonnie hanged herself; Mary died by putting her head in the gas oven; Therese took an overdose of sleeping pills and Lux died of carbon monoxide poisoning when she left the car engine running in the garage.
Devastated by the suicides of their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon leave the neighborhood. Mr. Lisbon has a friend clean out the house and sell off the family belongings in a yard sale. Whatever didn't sell was put in the trash, including the family photos, which the neighborhood boys collect as mementos. The house is sold to a young couple from the Boston area. The adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing happened. The boys do not forget about the girls.
As the film closes, the men acknowledge in voice-over that they had loved the girls, and that they will never know why the Lisbon sisters took their lives.
- James Woods as Ronald Lisbon
- Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Lisbon
- Kirsten Dunst as Lux Lisbon
- Josh Hartnett as Trip Fontaine
- Michael Paré as Adult Trip Fontaine
- A. J. Cook as Mary Lisbon
- Hanna R. Hall as Cecilia Lisbon
- Leslie Hayman as Therese Lisbon
- Chelse Swain as Bonnie Lisbon
- Jonathan Tucker as Tim Winer
- Noah Shebib as Parkie Denton
- Anthony DeSimone as Chase Buell
- Lee Kagan as David Barker
- Robert Schwartzman as Paul Baldino
- Scott Glenn as Father Moody
- Danny DeVito as Dr. E. M. Horniker
- Hayden Christensen as Jake Hill Conley
- Kristin Fairlie as Amy Schraff
- Giovanni Ribisi as the Narrator
Thurston Moore (from the band Sonic Youth) originally gave the book to Sofia Coppola and after reading it, she decided to make it into a movie.
After she had written the script, Sofia was heartbroken to discover that another company was already producing an adaptation of the book themselves. However, the company was not happy with their script, so Sofia showed them hers and they ended up using hers instead.
Hanna Hall screen tested for the role of Lux Lisbon, but she was too young for the part and was cast in the role of Cecilia instead. Alicia Silverstone was offered the role of Mary Lisbon, but she turned it down.
The filming dates for "The Virgin Suicides" began on July 6, 1998 and ended in September of 1998. The filming primarily took place in Ontario, Canada.
The Libson house was filmed at 28 Dunloe Road in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Since then, the original property has been knocked down.
The school interiors & exteriors were filmed at the Monarch Park Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The football field scene where Lux and Trip make out was filmed at the Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto.
"The Virgin Suicides" opened at #24 at the box office, grossing $235,122 during its opening weekend. Domestically, it grossed $4,906,229 and $10,409,377 worldwide.
The film was generally well received by critics; it has a 76% Metacritic rating and a 76% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
The New York Post heaped praise on the film: "It's hard to remember a film that mixes disparate, delicate ingredients with the subtlety and virtuosity of Sofia Coppola's brilliant The Virgin Suicides."
The Philadelphia Inquirer outlined its attributes: "There's a melancholy sweetness here, a gentle humor that speaks to the angst and awkwardness of girls turning into women, and the awe of boys watching the transformation from afar."
Peter Stack from the San Francisco Chronicle said in his review of the film: "Iconic, darkly funny, filtered through an elegiac haze of loosely connected moments, "The Virgin Suicides" is the impressive feature-directing debut of Sofia Coppola."