(Part 34 of an ongoing series)
In the end we had pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained. Oddly shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name.
Narrator (Giovanni Ribisi)
The Virgin Suicides captivated and frustrated me, which I guess is the point. Eternal chasms of misunderstanding lie between boys and girls, and between suicides and survivors– especially when those boys and girls are writhing in the rut of puberty, and when those suicides plunge into the void just when it seemed they were on the verge of escaping it.
Sofia Coppola illustrates these mysterious chasms as poetically as she can (drawing, of course, from the poetry of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel), though I found myself wishing she better illustrated the three Lisbon sisters who aren’t Cecilia (Hanna Hall) or Lux (Kirsten Dunst). While I was horrified to see Bonnie’s feet dangle into the frame as her body hangs from the basement ceiling, my sorrow was undermined a bit as I started to think, Wait, which one’s Bonnie again?
Then again, maybe it was Cecilia and Lux who should’ve been less developed. The Virgin Suicides isn’t about individual characters so much as it’s about how grief infects a community, and how budding young men flirt with the tender unknown.
The boys’ naivete gives The Virgin Suicides much of its humor, and helps insure the movie isn’t a total pity party of amorphous, woe-are-we suburban malaise. Then there’s the high school dance sequence, perhaps the heart of the movie, injecting the film with a dose of euphoria right before it slides past the point of no return. It also does the best job of capturing that teenage feeling: we know the darkness of reality is out there, lurking in the corners of the future, waiting to pounce, but for now, for one giddy, fleeting moment, that can’t stop us from dancing beneath a balloon cascade to “Come Sail Away.”