In an ordinary suburban house, on a lovely tree-lined street, in the middle of 1970s America, lived the five beautiful, dreamy Lisbon sisters – aged 13 to 17 – whose doomed fates indelibly marked the neighborhood boys who to this day continue to obsess over them. It opens with the attempted suicide of the moody youngest sibling. After she returns home, the family members try to go on with their lives. The girls’ first party is a washout ended by the 13-year-old successfully killing herself by jumping out of a window and landing on the spiked garden fence. Once again, the others try to move ahead, but the mother’s fanatical repressed thinking only causes the next youngest to rebel, searching for something in gratuitous sex. When the most popular boy in school asks her to a school dance, she gets all dreamy. Well, until she stays out all night, only to wake up in a football field, abandoned by her date and forced to take a cab home. Mom’s not happy, Dad’s befuddled, and the four remaining sisters retreat into an isolated world.
The collective narrator speaks for an eclectic group of men whose lives were forever changed by their fierce obsession with the five Lisbon sisters. The girls were everything desired and unattainable: gorgeous, luminous and completely off limits due to their parents’ strict household rules. A dark, grown-up fairy tale that examines suburban teenhood, “The Virgin Suicides” is based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ acclaimed novel.
On the heels of the cynical, yet Award-winning “American Beauty” comes this next attack on suburban life. Sensitive, but often amusingly macabre, “The Virgin Suicides” tells us that the family religion (here, Catholism, but I think the producers see any religious upbringing as antiquated) offers no comfort for adolescent angst. And if a boy thoughtlessly uses a girl and doesn’t call her the next day, well, why go on. Although the mother is a bit hard on rock-and-roll albums (she makes her daughter destroy them) and Dad’s a dim bulb, the parents are not portrayed as abusers of the girls in any way. They just don’t seem to connect with the secretive mind of the ‘90s teenager. The rapprochement of suburban life has some merit. If the attaining of the right house, the right job and the perfect-looking family becomes the ultimate goal, there will indeed be a smoldering dissatisfaction. We are mental, physical and spiritual beings. To deny a true fulfillment of the soul will keep the heart from ever knowing true peace. But is that what the filmmaker is saying? I’m not sure. It is a sad film that doesn’t answer any questions. All too often filmmakers think they have done their duty by merely raising questions.