The title refers to the five blonde daughters of the Lisbon family, living in a tree-lined Michigan town during the 1970s. The youngest daughter takes her own life early on, and others will follow. But director Sofia Coppola’s filmmaking debut indulges in neither the sensationalism nor quasi-pornography that the title and subject might suggest. Instead, Coppola has brought Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel of suburban dysfunction to the screen with just the sort of devastatingly elegant intelligence and taste that its risky premises require. Like American Beauty
, The Virgin Suicides
skates on thin emotional ice, but manages some astonishing pirouettes of sardonic social psychology in the process. A canny and perceptive picture of a nation whose beauties have gone psycho, a tale of innocence and ignorance, of misplaced hopes—a distinctly American tragedy that could have occurred anywhere in the country, and at any time, during the last 50 years.