The Virgin Suicides

Director/Writer:Sofia Coppola
Paramount Classics; R; 97 minutes
Cast:Kirsten Dunst, Hanna Hall, James Woods, Kathleen Turner

The initial half-hour of The Virgin Suicides is astonishing. There is no main character and no primary plot, only a miasmatic ambience of death and swirling memory in a suburban town trying to recover from one girl's suicide attempt. Sofia Coppola (daughter of director Francis Ford) directs using acute attention and the eerie detail of an unsettling dream, and crosshatches this pattern with moments of humor, pathos, and satire.

This powerful atmosphere can't continue, and the film settles down with a plot line involving teen romance, the prom, and the Liston's five girls who—as we learn from incessant voice-over narration—are destined to take their own lives. Even when events play out predictably, nuanced period evocation keeps everything original. The sisters' presence is both central and spectral. It is a credit to first time director Coppola that they hold the movie aloft, catching the audience in a fever dream whose melancholic allure winks, then vanishes.