Books Do It Better: ‘The Virgin Suicides’

Two nights ago I finished Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and basically haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite books or even high ranking on my list in general. It is just one of those books that when you finish it you go on your merry way until you’re doing something completely different and a line just hits you from out of nowhere and stops you in your tracks. The film, directed by Sofia Coppola (1999) was the same way. I didn’t find anything super remarkable about it while watching, but once it was over a feeling washed over me; a feeling of being in a haze of memory awash with sunlight filtered through trees instagram style and an overwhelming sense of sadness. (We have the film’s beautiful cinematography to thank for that.)

I think that if I hadn’t read the book I wouldn’t like the movie as much as I do because watching it is almost like reading it again. Most of the script is taken line for line from the novel and I loved S. Coppola’s attention to the smallest of details (the bronze baby shoes, the sandwich on the stairs). The thing she captures so well is the feeling of the novel, what’s it is like to be young and confused and in love and stifled and have parents who just don’t understand (in more ways than one).

Speaking of parents, I really loved Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Libson. She was terrifying in a calm and controlled way-which is sometimes the most frightening. The girls who played the Lisbon sisters were perfect in their homogeneity, isolated from the outside world and sometimes hard to tell apart except for the enigmatic Lux played by Kirsten Dunst. Josh Hartnett makes a hilariously 90’s appearance as heartthrob Trip Fontaine and I don’t even want to discuss his choice of attire for the homecoming dance (hint: it’s velour).

Overall, I would recommend both the book and the movie and obviously recommend reading the book first (that’s a given). This is one of those books that I feel I will find myself revisiting in the future and understanding in a whole new light and through a much different lens of experience. For now it stands as a novel I read and a movie I watched during a very particular and sad moment in my life and while those feelings are echoed in both texts they didn’t capture my exact feelings until I had time to really think about what it all meant. Well I guess this is growing up…

Book and Film Rating:

Needs Milk

Final Word

The Good:

  • The scene where the Lisbon girls and boys play records back and forth to each other over the phone was my favorite part in the film just like I knew it would be. It was such a tender and intimate moment. I liked actually hearing the songs instead of having to imagine them like I did when I was reading.

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