Sunday, February 28, 2010

41. The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides. Directed by Sofia Coppola. 97 min. DVD Paramount. 1999, ASIN: B00003CXH1.

Plot Summary
The Lisbon sisters are an eclectic group of girls who live under the oppressive rule of their parent's conservative values. They aren't allowed to date, to go to school dances, or drive with boys. Without any freedom, the girls are kept indoors and remain a mystery to the boys in the neighborhood. These boys develop a devotion and fanaticism for the girls. The boys document a series of events involving the Lisbon sisters that they will never be able to piece together. Starting with the suicide of the youngest Lisbon daughter Cecilia, the family is sent on a staggering downward spiral from which there is no recovery.

Critical Evaluation
Sofia Coppola paints a staggering picture of conservative, Christian values in her adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenidas' The Virgin Suicides. Viewers witness the lives of the Lisbon daughters through the eyes of the neighborhood boys who are fanatically devoted to them. With each glimpse into their oppressed lives, we see another part of the mystery surrounding their tragic end. The soft cinematography and use of lens flares during montage sequences give the girls an angelic feel to represent the pure nature their parents seek to preserve.

When Lux Lisbon gets drunk and falls asleep with heartthrob Trip Fontaine on the 50 yard line of the high school football field, the girls are all punished. The sisters literally turn into prisoners of their parents values. They miss school, burn their records, and are only able to experience the outside world from the help of the boys who adore them. The film has an ominous tone from start to finish, with an eerie soundtrack provided by electronic group Air. The voice over dialogue from the neighborhood boys sounds like detectives talking over that one unsovled case that has haunted their entire career. This film and its ability to portray a very real and shocking portrayal of American life is an important reminder of the effects our values have on those we force them upon.

Reader's Annotation
The Lisbon sisters were a mystery and an obsession for the boys who knew them. They would know them better if it weren't for the girls' conservative and oppressive parents, and now it seems they might not ever will.

Director Information
Sofia Coppola is the daughter of famed film director Francis Ford Coppola. Growing up the daughter of a film legend, movie making and directing were always a passion for her. Before breaking into the film business on her own, Coppola tried painting, photography, fashion design, and acting. Eventually Coppola followed in her father's footsteps and became a director. In 2003, she became the first female to be nominated for Best Director at the academy awards for her work on the film Lost in Translation. Coppola's script for Lost in Translation would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Since Lost in Translation Sofia has gone on to direct the period piece Marie Antoinette, and she is currently involved in the production of the film Somewhere.

drama, mystery

Curriculum Ties

depression, teenage suicide

Reading Level
Grades 10+
Challenge Issues
suicide, sex

Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
When I think of a well made movie involving teens, the first film I think of is The Virgin Suicides. The portrayal of conservative American life is as haunting as the chilling ending. Suicide is a serious topic, and this movie has the ability to get teens thinking about the issue.

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