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On The Virgin Suicides
Suicide is an easy theme for pretenders to artistic profundity.


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Rich Lowry

Think of this movie as a macabre Wonder Years. Suicide is an easy theme for pretenders to artistic profundity, which is why it features in roughly every other alternative-rock song. The Virgin Suicides, as the title suggests, plays it to the hilt.

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A male voice-over tells the story of a tragedy 25 years earlier. Five teenage sisters, all golden-haired beauties in the full bloom of youth, attract the obsessive attention of a group of neighborhood boys — eventually with disastrous consequences. Set in the ’70s, the film gets the feel of the decade exactly right. And the aching, unrequited longing of the boys is rendered with subtlety and charm, even if we’ve seen it in dozens of other movies. Oh, the unfairness of adolescence! A growth spurt can give the unworthiest kid an advantage in maturity, confidence, and size that makes him (briefly) a prince among men. In this case, it’s a tall, long-haired jock named Trip, who is a sort of Eddie Haskell on pot.

The failing of the The Virgin Suicides is the heavy-handed and unconvincing portrayal of the girls’ repressive parents, predictably enough the ultimate cause of the film’s catastrophe. The mother wears around her neck a cross that glints dangerously throughout the film. The nadir here is a scene in which one of the girls is seated in front of the fireplace, begging her mom not to make her burn her rock records: “KISS! Please don’t make me do this! Aerosmith! Please don’t make me burn this!”

If it’s the ’70s you want, stick with Dazed and Confused.



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