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Film_Review : Virgin Suicides ****

This film almost has it. We start in middle class affluent America of the 70s. The beautiful innocent young America with its catholic naivety and young cherubs bursting with anticipation for love. Yet innocence results in young Cecilia’s attempted suicide in the bath. Her large stern mother throws a party and invites the boy’s next door. Cecilia kills herself as the boy’s tease the kid with downs syndrome. The sisters return to school and the boys, in particular Tim (Jonathan Tucker), try to psychoanalyse them through a diary they found.

Then enters Trip (Josh Hartnett). The dope smoking, long haired, psychedelic phenomena of middle America’s sexual revolution. He can have any girl, but he falls for the eldest sister, Lux Lisbon (Kirsten Dunst) who has no interest in him. He makes his move in one of those geography movies about meteorology put out by the US Navy and sounds like a WWII drama. The suffocated sexuality of religious middle America is released by Trip.

The debutantes Ball and the dream-like drive through the affluent, but useless icons of the rich by the aspiring youth of that generation with the beautiful blonde goddesses of love and hope, take us into the realms of seduction behind the curtains at the Ball. Sense gratification peaks on America’s symbolic place of male prowess with the Trip pumping itself out. His archetype of true love is left behind to return spurned in her maternalistic purgatory.

The isolation of all the goddesses and the burning of the lustful one’s recording of her generation’s voice or attempt at song, in a forced exorcism, leads to the degeneration of the family. So Virgin Suicides is a grotesque parody of the Partridge Family, Brady Bunch and My Three Sons, yet it is beyond all of these in capturing the spirit of prepubescent angst in a nation that refuses to grow up.

The boys fixated on the monastic punishment inflicted upon their archetypes resort to fantasy holidays then telecommunication to fulfil their passion. The apex of their corruption into temptation is to dream of sexual freedom with their fantasy creations. This brings them face to face with the unforeseen consequences for those who dare disobey virgin religious middle America and thus they see the heart of those who lust after young innocent girls.

The film perhaps reflects more the twisted heart of its writer than reality, however it gives a valid social comment on the consequences of being overly repressive in a permissive society. Trip has finally been recognised and rejected as the solution and has become a source of parody. The girls find an easy way out. Yet what solution is offered to the good brothers? Should they have resisted the sirens? For we are left with an asphyxiation party where they seem to fulfil their desires, but we walk out feeling a bad smell as if somehow it could have all been avoided if we had been just a bit kinder to our kids and not overreacted when we found out they had sex. But if Virgin Suicides represents the death of innocence in our bourgeois society, then the price in gratuitousness in this film is too great a corruption of 70s sentimental schloppie love to be really believable.

Based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ acclaimed novel, The Virgin Suicides is a dark, grown-up fairy tale carved out of the funny-sad fabric of suburban teenhood. The film is written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who makes her feature film directorial debut.


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