• James Rutherford

'The Virgin Suicides': Sofia Coppola's Dreamlike Adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' Celebrated Novel


Movie poster for the 1999 film The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides (1999) is a dreamlike and ethereal drama that follows the 5 teenage Lisbon sisters, residents of Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the mid-1970s. Raised by religiously conservative parents (James Woods, Kathleen Turner), the alluring quintet draws the attention of many local boys yet remain highly restricted in their social activities.


The film is told largely from the perspective of the boys, now grown, reflecting back upon their overwhelming infatuation with the winsome Lisbon girls. After youngest sister Cecilia (Hannah Hall) slits her wrists one summer day, her survival inspires her parents to host a chaperoned party in an attempt to comfort her. The occasion marks a turning point for Lux (Kirsten Dunst) in particular, whose yearning for independence soon draws her to Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett), the high school heartthrob whose intentions remain far from pure. The sister's story ultimately becomes one of abject desperation as they chafe at their parent's every act of perceived oppression—their ultimate fate foretold in titular fashion.


Adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides' 1993 novel and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette) in her filmmaking debut, The Virgin Suicides is a wistful tale of yearning and heartbreak. Coppola tackles teenage rebellion with a strikingly confident take on adolescence in all of its emotional and psychological complexities. With a major assist from French electronic music duo Air, who lend an aura of nostalgic remembrance to the proceedings, it's a darkly seductive depiction of femininity, familial discord and the precariousness of lost innocence.