In her debut, Sofia Coppola fashions the 1970s with a washed out wistfulness that feels like a distant memory — lingering for a time — leaving a few far away remembrances to be eulogized and reminisced about.
Her film is really about two groups. There are the Lisbon girls who live with their militantly authoritarian parents and then the neighborhood boys who look on with awe. These girls are the unattainable prize that all of these young men are entranced by. They are not besmirched or dirtied by the ways of the world, stuck in the ivory tower of their parent’s home. It’s almost as if they come out of a dream, so pure and in the same way so provocative.
However, things get shaken up when the youngest daughter attempt to commit suicide and then in a free moment she jumps out of the window and meets death by the metal fence posts below. Red flags should be going up everywhere, but stubborn Mrs. Lisbon only becomes more stringent in her moralistic ways. She should be trusting her daughters, allowing them certain freedoms, but she only takes away more. And reluctant Mr. Lisbon does nothing to stop her. He just lets it be.
Only allowed to socialize at one dance under strict guidelines, the girls relish this opportunity and so do the boys. They finally get their chance with a different class of girl. But after the smitten Lux breaks curfew, all the sisters lose all contact with the outside world. The iron gates go down, and she never gets another moment with high school heartthrob Trip. On top of that, their mother makes her burn all her records in another strict turn.
Lux defies her passively in any way possible as she and her sisters try and maintain contact with the boys on the outside. But there is a point for any person where this type of confinement, this type of prison, gets to be too much. The girls reach the end of their rope and take the only way out they can see.
Oddly enough, most of the boys have little personality, but the focus is the Lisbons and specifically their daughters. The Virgin Suicides was partly intriguing because it never seemed to take on some dramatic tone and it never felt all that personal. I felt so far away. As Carol King mournfully sang, “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore. It would be so fine to see your face at my door. Doesn’t help to know you’re so far away.” That’s exactly what this film does. It doesn’t allow us to get close and that aloofness lent itself to the intrigue we have in these girls. We’re pulled into their story along with all these young boys.