Directed by Sofia Coppola. USA. 1999.

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"I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, that the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had" 
- Mad World from Donnie Darko.

Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds. Many young people feel isolated from friends and family and at odds with the prevailing values in their community. If they also cannot communicate with their parents, their lives may be in jeopardy. The Virgin Suicides by Sofia Coppola is a compelling film about the suicides of five sisters, ages 13 to 17, in suburban Michigan during the 1970s and the investigation by four teenage boys who loved them. Based upon Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, The Virgin Suicides is told from the boys' collective point of view. After the passage of many years, they still cannot come to grips with the tragedy. The movie has a strange dreamlike quality, reminiscent of another film about teenage girls, Picnic at Hanging Rock and is one of the most honest and thoughtful films I've seen about the desperate struggle of adolescents for acceptance.

Coppola creates a memorable picture of suburbia in the 70s with its frumpy dress, split-level homes, finely manicured lawns, and vapid middle class values. Though the exact reason for their suicide remains a mystery, it is clear from the outset that there is a failure of communication at home. The father (James Woods) is a passive high school teacher who always defers to "the missus" to make family decisions. The mother (Kathleen Turner) is an old-school disciplinarian who refuses to allow the girls to go out with boys, even to the school dance and makes Lux burn her rock albums when she stays out all night after the Homecoming dance. As further punishment, they are taken out of school and sequestered in their rooms where they become starved for human contact and affection. Mrs. Lisbon never tries to make any kind of genuine connection with her daughters or to understand their growing isolation. 

The girls: 13-year-old Cecilia (Hanna Hall), 14-year old Lux (Kirsten Dunst), 15-year-old Bonnie (Chelsea Swain), 16-year-old Mary (A.J. Cook), and 17-year-old Therese (Leslie Hayman) are all blond and attractive, reflecting the beauty the boys find fascinating but unattainable. Unable to know or understand the girls, they become more obsessed with their fantasies, watching the girls through a telescope from a room across the street. Sadly, like all unfulfilled fantasies, their relationship is always from a distance and they never get to know the girls as people. When the girls are gone, their innocence and childhood is lost forever. Years later they have only their memories. 

Howard Schumann
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