Entertainment Magazine

Back to School 2011: The Virgin Suicides Debate, Part 1

Posted on the 31 August 2011 by Cinefilles @cinefilles
In true school spirit, Emily and Michelle have teamed up debate club-style to bring you our takes on Sofia Coppola's debut feature film, The Virgin Suicides. Emily fights the case in favour of the book-to-film adaptation, while Michelle fights back in our two-parter piece.
Back to School 2011: The Virgin Suicides Debate, Part 1

EMILY: So, let me start by saying that I am a bit biased in this debate. I saw the movie before reading the book, which I find is always a recipe for an automatic-love. Like, even if the book isn't totally like the movie, you find it at least semi-thrilling because it gives you a deeper look into the characters you've fallen in love with and were previously limited by editing and Hollywood running times. And this book is a great example, because it is so much more detailed.
MICHELLE: And that's the reason I would say I'm biased. I read the book before watching the film and one of the most disappointed aspects of the film for me was the lack of detail that was in the book. I had high expectations for the film because The Virgin Suicides is my favourite book. I read it every summer. So I was both excited to see the film but devastated that my favourite book had been adapted, because more times than not, the film doesn't do the book justice.
EMILY: Do you think it's more in the specific details of the characters or in the actual - for lack of a better word - "vibe" of the book? Because what I really love about the film is that slowly decaying, yet dreamy quality it captures, which is exactly how I feel the book was meant to feel. One of my favourite scenes - which I believe is also in the book - is near the end when they are having that party and everyone is wearing gas masks. But they're also wearing party dresses.
Back to School 2011: The Virgin Suicides Debate, Part 1
MICHELLE: Admittedly, the film did do a good job of capturing the vibe you described, but it didn't capture the sense of the boys' naivety that you get in the book. For me, the book was a balance between that feeling of slow decay and the naive lust from the boys. In the film, the boys have grown up and seem to have forgotten what it really was like when they were younger. They don't talk about their ridiculous assumptions about what happens to girls going through puberty. They didn't talk about their fear of asking the muscular guy who mowed the Lisbon's lawn what it was like inside their house, a fear they built up just because the guy came from a poor family. In the book, they were scared little boys who created a barrier between themselves and the girls they loved so much from afar.
EMILY: I do have to say the boys are definitely not as much of a focus in the book as they are in the movie. There are significant stretches where there is no narration and we just follow the girls. But perhaps that was intentional? To put us directly in the boys' shoes. Like we're them - watching and obsessing over the girls ourselves?
MICHELLE: That's true. It's an understandable interpretation of the book. But while we're on the topic of the boys, why are they giving police accounts throughout the film? The book is a faux-memoir. Why would police care about what Trip Fontaine thought about the way Lux looked when he first met her? It's an unnecessary addition to the story. The story is about lust and decay, not police procedure. I get that it's a way to insert more perspective but we don't need those perspectives; it's not about those characters.
EMILY: Those sections definitely stick out. I think perhaps they wanted to create some fake suspense. To make us wonder more about how exactly these "Suicides" are going to go down. Sofia definitely tries to create a bit more attainable mystery in the film. Whereas in the book, I feel like there are so many questions unanswered. And that's what's so fascinating.
But speaking of Trip. What do you think of Josh Harnett in the role? I for one am a big fan. But I may be totally swayed by his stone foxy hair and the fact that his personal soundtrack seems to consist exclusively of badass Heart songs. He's certainly not the best actor but he's got the right magnetism, I think.
Back to School 2011: The Virgin Suicides Debate, Part 1
MICHELLE: Ha ha! I was going to bring up his hair too. But just to say that it looks like a new species of rodent. Like they wanted to go for the Michael Kelso look but saved on a cheaper wig. He did do the role well but, and I know I keep bringing up the book, he wasn't the same character. The book Trip was a dreamy heartthrob who turns out to be a flake. The film Trip was a dreamy heartthrob who turns out to have feelings. He was more likeable, which isn't always a bad thing, but he grew less interesting. If I had to re-write it, Lux should have left him.
And yes, the soundtrack was amazing.
EMILY: I still have a crush on Trip. I'd totally hang with him and a bottle of peach schnapps under the bleachers. But that's a whole other discussion...
Check back at noon today for the second half of our debate-like discussion!

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog