"Obviously doctor, you've never been a thirteen year old girl"
Sofia Coppola's first feature as writer and director is more a work of poetry than something narrative. It's a bold move for a first timer, a high stakes gamble that could instantly establish or destroy a career.
The film is ostensibly about the Lisbon sisters, five siblings in a restrictive household who kill themselves over the course of a year. Rather than track the downward spiral of events like some kind of after school special, the story is told from the perspective of a group of boys, who mainly watch the sisters from afar. The events here are a hauntingly impossible mystery to them, the sort of puzzle that, no matter how many pieces you have, never seem to fit together.
It is the search for understanding that pushes the film forward, something universal we can all relate to. There is despair, angst, even excitement, but most of all the empathy of these boys, who are hardly essential in their viewpoint, but not so much in their individuality. It's appropriate that we don't get to know them, only really being aware of their lingering questions. It's a strange way to tell a story, but the right way for this one.
The acting is largely subdued. Our Hollywood stars, James Woods and Kathleen Turner atop the Lisbon household, and Kirsten Dunst as 4th daughter Lux, all do wonderfully within fairly narrow confines. But everyone does, from the oldest sister to the one line day players. This is a film that does not believe in stars.
The film climaxes with a scene so bizarre, it brings up more questions than it answers - if it answers any. It reaches out to us like some kind of allegory, putting us in the position of the boys who look on, haunted by their own questions, which now haunt us.
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