The Virgin Suicides
It is not important how the Lisbon sisters looked. What is important is
how the teenage boys in the neighborhood thought they looked.
There is a time in the adolescent season of every boy when a particular
girl seems to have materialized in his dreams, with backlighting from
heaven. Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" is narrated by an adult who
speaks for "we"--for all the boys in a Michigan suburban neighborhood 25
years ago, who loved and lusted after the Lisbon girls. We know from the
title and the opening words that the girls killed themselves. Most of the
reviews have focused on the girls. They miss the other subject--the gawky,
insecure yearning of the boys.
The movie is as much about those guys, "we," as about the Lisbon girls.
About how Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the leader of the pack, loses his
baby fat and shoots up into a junior stud who is blindsided by sex and
beauty, and dazzled by Lux Lisbon (Kirsten Dunst), who of the perfect
Lisbon girls is the most perfect.
In every class there is one couple who has sex while the others are only
talking about it, and Trip and Lux make love on the night of the big
dance. But that is not the point. The point is that she wakes up the next
morning, alone, in the middle of the football field. And the point is that
Trip, as the adult narrator, remembers not only that "she was the still
point of the turning world then" and "most people never taste that kind of
love" but also, "I liked her a lot. But out there on the football field,
it was different."
Yes, it was. It was the end of adolescence and the beginning of a lifetime
of compromises, disenchantments and real things. First sex is ideal only
in legend. In life it attaches plumbing, fluids, gropings, fumblings and
pain to what was only an hour ago a platonic ideal. Trip left Lux not
because he was a pig, but because he was a boy and broken with grief at
the loss of his--their--dream. And when the Lisbon girls kill themselves,
do not blame their deaths on their weird parents. Mourn for the passing of
everyone you knew and everyone you were in the last summer before sex.
Mourn for the idealism of inexperience.
"The Virgin Suicides" provides perfunctory reasons that the Lisbon girls
might have been unhappy. Their mother (Kathleen Turner) is a hysteric so
rattled by her daughters' blooming sexuality that she adds cloth to their
prom dresses until they appear in "four identical sacks." Their father
(James Woods) is the well-meaning but emasculated high school math teacher
who ends up chatting about photosynthesis with his plants. These parents
look gruesome to us. All parents look gruesome to kids, and all of their