Must everything be thematic? I don’t know. But if you insist on seeing it that way, this week’s short was more or less the anti-theme to the feature presentation’s theme. The short, “Storm“, is an animated version of comedian Tim Minchin’s beat poem of (presumably) the same name.
The eponymous Storm is a young woman with a fairy tattoo and a penchant for spiritualism who joins a dinner party Tim attends, and the poem details Minchin’s efforts to convince her that rejecting spiritualism makes life more meaningful. It’s not going to work, of course, and I don’t agree with everything he says, but it’s quite entertaining.
But if the short is intended to be a celebration of life in the absence of spiritualism, our feature presentation is a rejection of life imprisoned by religious tenets that one cares not to embrace. That film is Sophia Coppola‘s directorial debut The Virgin Suicides.
The film revolves around the five teenaged Lisbon daughters, particularly the seductive Lux above, as remembered years later (perhaps imperfectly) by the neighborhood boys they bewitched. While the film does not make a mockery of its title (unlike, say, the unrelated but disappointing “Killing Zoe” – Spoiler: Zoe doesn’t die), things start off with a bit of a head-fake.
Cecilia, the youngest Lisbon daughter, is found in the midst of bleeding her wrists out into the tub. Why? Well, the kids in the neighborhood don’t really know, so we don’t ever find out. She’s kinda dark. And she’s a depressed environmentalist, so she’s probably a Malthusian. Maybe that’s reason enough.
As a punishment for attempting suicide, Cecilia is sent to a shrink who suggests that her parents increase her social interactions by throwing a party at their house. So the neighborhood boys are invited over to the Lisbon house for the most awkward parent-chaperoned teenage basement party ever. Dad Lisbon tries to entertain the guests with stories about aviation while Cecilia excuses herself to go upstairs to her room, so she can jump out the window and impale herself on the wrought iron fence. Lesley Gore would be proud.
Naturally, the fence is blamed for the entire incident and removed with extreme prejudice.
The four surviving siblings continue to live their lives, returning to school and a somewhat normal life, but their strict upbringing will ultimately be their downfall, and it starts with the most popular boy in school, Trip Fontaine.
Trip falls head over heels in love with Lux, and wants to take her to the Homecoming dance. The Lisbon parents (well, technically Mom – Dad’s on board) finally agree to let their daughters go to prom on a quadruple date with Trip and three other boys, but they are given a strict curfew.
But of course Lux, caught up in being named Homecoming Queen with Trip her King, bolts curfew and instead has sex with Trip on the football field, waking up alone with the dawn. And with that, the metaphorical noose that the Lisbon parents have on their daughters begins to tighten. They are pulled out of school, and the neighborhood boys’ only interactions with them consist of watching Lux’s random sexual encounters on the roof through a telescope (how does she schedule them?) and the occasional playing of random records over the telephone.
Until they receive very nice hand-written cards requesting them to come over one particular midnight. The boys dream of running away with the Lisbons, but Lux leaves them in their darkened living room as she goes to get the family station wagon, or so she says. But finally, there’s a bump in the basement, and the boys go to investigate.
It’s Bonnie. Meanwhile, Mary has stuck her head in the oven, Therese has O.D.ed on sleeping pills, and Lux, well…
The boys run away in terror, and Lux is found the next morning. Why did they kill themselves? Outside of the obvious parental smothering, nobody can really say. But at least they made sure that the title paid off (well, except for Lux I guess.) The Lisbon parents pack up and bolt town, of course, but the neighborhood goes back to normal, even embracing a bit of the macabre. Everybody’s got to cope somehow.