A group of male friends become obsessed with a group of mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents after one of them commits suicide
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It was a beautiful September morning when I woke up at 6:30am and headed off to my production assistant job working for a US cable TV show in the city of Toronto. We were shooting in a park that was supposed to be in New York City but of course was just a park in the Toronto city suburbs. New York taxis where assembled in the background of the park and the street signs were changed to NYC signs. Always a surreal experience no matter how many times I saw it occur.
I was more tired than usual as the night before I was at an industry party that was taking place during the Toronto International Film Festival and I barely got 2 hours of sleep. When the day got going and they were in the midst of filming their day, I positioned myself on the steps of the Port-i-Potti and closed my eyes. Then I heard it. It was the moment we all will remember: September 11, 2001. I opened my eyes to a new world right then and there on the steps of a moving washroom!
After we stopped shooting and packed everything up, I headed home and watched The Virgin Suicides. I picked it up at the video store the week before and it was late and I needed to watch it. Not exactly the best movie to watch moments after the iconic event of my lifetime. But it was there and I needed to be distracted.
I loved the film when I watched it that day and I loved it even more the 2nd time I saw it 8 years later. This is truly a remarkable piece of filmmaking and it's extremely original in many ways.
The first thing to point out is that we never really know who the narrator is. It's one of the 4 boys we meet who become our eyes and ears as they voyeur on their neighbors across the street, the unusual Lisbon family with the 5 daughters. And they get even more unusual when the youngest girl commits suicide.
We only get the know about this family through these boys. The family is a riddle to them and it's a riddle to the audience. And that's what makes this an almost brilliant film. We are confused throughout the viewing of the film and the many questions that are raised are not answered because the boys can't answer them themselves. This family will always remain a puzzling wonder to them and to us.
Trip Fontaine (Josh Harnett) is that guy we all know or knew in a time in our lives. The guy who is at his peak in his life while you are either sliding up or sliding down. He's the high school guy that has it all: Charm, personality, looks, sweetness. Or at least he's has it all to be on top of every food chain in the US high school environment. He wants one of the Lisbon sisters: Lux (Kirsten Dunst). Why does he want her? Because she's the only one he can't obtain. He thinks it's love, but it's really just the worst of the male ego. And the dangerous thing about Trip is that he's able to obtain the unobtainable. And when you actually get your prey when you really shouldn't, only bad things can happen.
The set of events Trip concedes to win Lux will indirectly be the end of the Lisbon sisters. The ending of The Virgin Suicides is in the title of the film. We watch because we want to know how and why it happened.
This is a film really about the human emotion. How certain people can't express their inner feelings and thoughts and how it can ruin the people in their lives. Fear is a dangerous human emotion and it's dangerous because we all have it. And it's how we deal with our fears is what sets us a part from others in this world. You either deal with your fears in a good way or a bad way. And if you happen to deal with your fears in a bad way and you've pro-created, then that sets up a horrible chain of events because you are now in a mentor position.
The mother in The Virgin Suicides is a very dangerous person. Perhaps even an evil person. And the father some would argue is even worse than her because he is aware of this and doesn't do anything about it, even though it will bring the end to all of his daughters.
On the surface, The Virgin Suicides is a simple film. But if you look closer, there is a lot of complex issues that are being dealt with.
There is only one scene where we truly get to know these girls. It's when Trip and his assembled team are driving the girls to the high school dance. The girls are all judging and making fun of their neighbors assorted quirks as they drive by their homes. They are doing just what the rest of the neighborhood is doing to them behind their own backs. It shows us how judgment goes round and round when you are feeling insecure. And suburbia is just a miss-mash of insecurity. I grew up in it and by some strange miracle I was able to get out. It was then that my truest fears came to fruition. The rest of the world is in judgment mode too! You can never leave it. You only can learn how to deal with it.