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Paramount Studios presents
The Virgin Suicides (2000)

Doctor: "What are you doing here little girl? You aren't old enough to realize how bad life gets."
Cecilia: "Obviously doctor, you've never been a sixteen year old girl."

- Doctor (François Klanfer) and Cecilia (Hannah Hall)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: December 24, 2000

Stars: James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, and Josh Hartnett
Other Stars: Danny Devito, Scott Glenn, Hanna Hall, Chelsea Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman
Director: Sofia Coppola

MPAA Rating: R for strong thematic elements involving teens
Run Time: 01h:36m:57s
Release Date: December 19, 2000
UPC: 097363381747
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+B+B- B-

DVD Review

The phrase "but what I really want to do is direct" has long been considered common in Hollywood. Actors who go behind the camera are often met with great disaster, and only a handful have risen above the curse and created classics. Mel Gibson had his hit with Braveheart, and Clint Eastwood routinely makes good films year after year. But with Sofia Coppola, the tradition takes an opposite turn. This is one actress I never want to see acting again, but I am begging her to be directing films year after year. Coppola's The Virgin Suicides is not only one of the best films of the year, but perhaps the best by a first time director.

Taking place in Michigan during the 1970's, the film tells the ultimately sad story of the five Lisbon sisters. Cecilia (Hall), Lux (Dunst), Bonnie (Swain), Mary (Cook), and Therese (Hayman) each will go through childhood in a rough way throughout the course of the film. After Cecilia survives one suicide attempt, she is successful on the second try. In the wake of that tragedy, the world surrounding the surviving sisters becomes grim, and their parents' over-protectiveness threatens to push them over the edge.

The Virgin Suicides is not a happy movie by any means. In fact the impending doom that hangs over the films third act creates a few moments that are more dramatic than they need to be. Aside from that one small complaint, The Virgin Suicides is a nearly flawless picture.

There are moments of humor in the film as well as moments of heartache and they each work because of Copolla's direction. For instance, early in the film after the death of Cecilia, the family enters the graveyard and encounters a group of protestors. Instead of showing a confrontation between the father (Woods) character and the protestors, Coppola does it with complete silence as we watch through the windshield. It is because of nice touches like those that the film works.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with only a few familiar faces in the ensemble. The most noticeable of the Lisbon sisters is Kirsten Dunst, who is so good as Lux that it baffles me as to why she would choose something as trite as Bring It On to follow up with. James Woods and Kathleen Turner give good performances as the parents. And Danny DeVito has what amounts to little more than a cameo as the psychiatrist who counsels the girls.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Virgin Suicides has a strange look to it, almost as if we are watching a memory unfold, and the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer does the style of the film justice. For once, the softness is intentional and the haziness is for a reason. Colors are strong, and black levels show up perfectly. No grain is noticeable, and no edge enhancement is seen. This is a very good transfer from both American Zoetrope and Paramount.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French and Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Graced with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the track isn't flashy but it gets the job done. Dialogue is clean and understandable, and the front soundstage is seamless. The surrounds provide music and some ambient noises, but for the most part remain quiet. Paramount also serves up 2.0 mixes in English and French.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video by Air
  2. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Aside from the glaring omission of a Coppola commentary track, The Virgin Suicides does have some nice extra features. A 23-minute documentary provides some nice behind-the-scenes glimpses, as well as interviews with the principal cast and crew members. The music video for Playground Love by Air, as well as a photo gallery and theatrical trailer round out the extras. The score by Air is deserving of an isolated track, but such is life.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The Virgin Suicides is a pleasant surprise. I had no knowledge of it until showed at my local theater for a one week run in August of this year. The film plays a bit better on the small screen, and Sofia Coppola is a director to watch. Oh yeah, her dad is a big time director also. Recommended.


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