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Clever story with more depth that appears at first blush, directed with
irony and a sardonic sense of humor by Gus Van Sant. Nicole Kidman
plays an especially shallow TV weather person who gets some grunge kids
to kill her husband for her. Her motive is, as Illeana Douglas, who
plays the sister-in-law, says, "he got in her way." This is a nice
study of narcissism metastasized into psychopathology. She is
headstrong, motivated and rather stupid. She thinks only of herself and
would do anything for herself and would do anything to anybody who got
in her way. And amazingly, she does.
Matt Dillon is wasted as the husband (in more ways than one). I'm surprised he agreed to do the part. Kidman is mesmerizing and makes us believe in a slightly unbelievable character. We've all known narcissistic little darlings who would kill you for the right shade of eye shadow, but to see it acted out so coldly and with such appalling stupidity, yet with a psychology so bizarre that it has to be real, fairly takes your breath away. It was especially apt that she had him killed so that her pointless little docu-drama "Teens Speak Out" could become newsworthy enough for national exposure. Consicously she doesn't realize this: she has no introspection; she just acts.
Also cute is the way the picture is framed: a pseudo-documentary within a pseudo-documentary. Everything is so well orchestrated that when Kidman gets her surprising, but entirely appropriate comeuppance at the end, we are quite pleased.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
A lot of people dislike To Die For. The film's detractors largely find
fault with its tone and subject matter. It is really the epitome of black
comedy, and anyone expecting either pure comedy or pure suspense will be
That said, To Die For deserves a place in film history as one of the sharpest satires of television and fame, ranking alongside films such as Network. Forgive the cliche, but Nicole Kidman's performance is truly a revelation -- she shows talents that were clearly invisible in earlier travesties such as Far & Away and are only now beginning to resurface. But the real discovery in this film is the magnificent Illeana Douglass. It is scandalous that few people mention her amazing work when discussing To Die For. If for nothing else, the film should be seen for the work of Kidman and Douglass. (Note also that To Die For has one of Joaquin Phoenix's earliest roles.)
As other commentators here have suggested, you are not guaranteed to love this film. Nonetheless, as far as I'm concerned, it's required viewing if you're a film fan.
i never have been much of a Nicole Kidman fan or one of Gus Van Zant as
well. i've always found Nicole to have a refreshing understated beauty but
not much of an actress.
well this movie definitely made a believer in me as far as her acting skills and screen presence are concerned. since she's australian, you'll be surprised at her her american accent in this movie is natural, and full of frisky character. she also lets a naturally sexual side of herself come through that gives the movie the added spark that it called for.
the whole movie is well written, well acted and the movie had a wickedly dark sense of humor. the ending is predictable but also kind of abrupt and could have been handled a LOT better and keeps this from being a 9.
i truly feel that Nicole Kidman should have gotten at least an oscar nomination for best actress the year this movie came out. trust me, her performance is THAT good and the movie is quite enjoyable as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you would like to see a really great performance by Nicole Kidman,
pick up a copy of "To Die For" at your local video store. Directed by
Gus Van Sant, screenplay by Buck Henry from the book by Joyce Maynard
(both Henry and Maynard have bit parts in the film), "To Die For" is a
wicked little gem of a film.
Kidman won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress for her performance, and frankly I thought she should have gotten the Academy Award (unless I remember incorrectly, I don't think she was even nominated for an Academy Award for it). But she is absolutely brilliant in it: chilling, funny, scary, sexy, and horrifically evil.
Kidman portrays Suzanne Stone-Maretto: a devious, calculating, self-centered woman who manipulates Larry Maretto (a very sympathetic performance by Matt Dillon) into marrying her, quickly tires of him when he tries to stand in her way of her greatest ambition in life, which is to be the next Diane Sawyer, and soon convinces her teenage lover to kill him for her. Sound familiar? "To Die For" was loosely based on the real-life story of Pamela Smart, who seduced her 15-year old lover into murdering her husband.
Joaquin Phoenix is Jimmy Emmett, the hapless student who becomes Suzanne's lover; Lydia Mertz is Alison Follard, a young girl who idolizes her; and Casey Affleck is Russel Hines, another student who gets caught up in the scheme. Illeana Douglas is great as Larry's acidic, loving sister Janice, who also gets one of the best lines in the film, and at the very beginning, no less; and Dan Hedaya is Larry's father, Joe Maretto. Dan Hedaya is a master of the "Believe me, you don't want to see me mad" performance, with obvious menace just under a calm surface. The casting is great, and the performances are all right on target.
Look for uncredited cameos by George Segal as a conference speaker, and David Cronenberg as...you'll just have to go see it.
This is black comedy at its finest,a wonderfully incisive film.I've seen it many times and it gets better with every viewing.This is one of Gus Van Sants best films,right up there with Drugstore Cowboy.This was the film that proved Nicole Kidman was a force to be reckoned with.Its a brutally good part,and she doesn't waste it.Giving a genuinely unhinged performance,as well as a jaw droppingly sexy one.The performances are all excellent though,Dillon plays the poor dumb schmuck who doesen't know what he's let himself in for with ease.Joaquin Phoenix is great as probably the dimmest character in movie history!Best of all is Illeana Douglas as Dillons wonderfully cynical sister."What did i first think of her?-Four letters beginning with 'c',you know......cold!" This is beautifully put together using mock docu footage,flashbacks,and straight filmaking.Clever,intelligent,and razor sharp,films like this are all to rare.Look out for director David Cronenberg,in a wickedly good cameo!
Nicole Kidman's breakthrough film, indie director Gus Van Sant's
tragic-comic tale of Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) a fame obsessed
housewife who seduces three teenagers to get rid of her husband (Matt
Dillon.) To Die For is directed in a pseudo-documentary style with some
of the characters telling their story to the camera. Writer Buck Henry
seems to be commenting on the superficiality of TV personalities,
weather forecasters and talk show hosts with his references to Geraldo
Rivera and Maury Povich and Suzanne's obsessive desire to be on TV.
The acting is outstanding from everyone. Nicole Kidman is the perfect choice for the seductress whose emotional age seems to be about ten years old and gives new meaning to the word "superficial." Joaquin Phoenix shows evidence of the star he would become. Alison Folland and Illeana Douglas are excellent.
I'm an admitted Nicole Kidman fan and this film shows her talent. She's also a gorgeous woman. Recommended.
I'm a little hesitant with my rating of 8 because this isn't really a
film to be taken too seriously; having said that, I was glued to the
screen and it holds up to repeat viewings so that says a lot.
It's peculiar that the closing credits of this film bear the usual disclaimer that "any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental" when the film is in fact the story of New Hampshire school teacher Pamela Smart, who did indeed co hearse a teenage student into murdering her husband in pretty much the exact same manner as depicted here. Writer Buck Henry has changed the characters name, occupation, and a number of the irrelevant details, but this is unmistakably the Pamela Smart story.
Played as dark comedy...! The heretofore unimpressive Buck Henry redeemed himself in my eyes with this wickedly amusing script.
While peppering us with the kind of mirroring observations about the shallowness and stupidity of the media and the society it reflects which makes us both laugh and squirm with more than passing discomfort, the top-notch cast masterfully play out the excellent script in such a mesmerizing fashion you simply will not believe nearly two hours are gone when it is over.
Nicole Kidman in particular displays intelligence and acting prowess I never imagined her capable of; she is in practically every frame of the film and while her character is truly despicable, you can't stop watching. The three teens, played by Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, and Alison Folland (who stands out as the easily led girl with a not too subtle lesbian infatuation on Suzanne Stone) are engaging. Perhaps the best of the cast after the lead is Illeana Douglas as the deliciously smart ass sister-in-law, she had me in stitches! From the opening credits of rushing reporters superimposed over headlines and newsprint, to the closing credits overlaid with the rather brilliantly selected Donovan song Season of the Witch, this one is a must see film from an era of otherwise bland cinema.
This is a different story and definitely interesting. The movie is
listed as a comedy but it's more of a drama. Yes, the comedy is there
but it's dark humor and there is violence and tragedy here.
Nicole Kidman is very good as the beautiful and ruthless blonde who has big television ambitions. I don't know if I ever saw Kidman look this pretty, which is saying a lot. Matt Dillon co-stars and is excellent, too, as are the two young no- name actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Allison Foland. Ironically, Phoenix, has become a big star, most recently playing the legendary Johnny Cash in "Walk The Line." When this movie came out, few people knew him.
Illena Douglas gives an underrated performance and I always enjoy the odd Dan Hedaya. Anyway, if you want to see something different in the way of a story, this movie falls in that category.
Gus Van Zant's wildly original take on the pursuit of fame at any price
is a gruesome black comedy that works flawlessly on every level. Van
Zant comes at his story from the viewpoint of a series of narrators who
see through media lusting Susan Stone Marretto as she stops at nothing
to bask in it's spotlight. The media in turn is more than willing to
Nicole Kidman as Susan is intimidating beyond the screen as she narrates much of her story into the camera. In addition to her remarkable seductive charm being put to use she also intimidates with a convincing icy coldness. She is the bold and the beautiful and Kidman is perfect to the role.
Having bullied her way into a job as a weather forecaster at a small audience cable station Susan never stops shooting higher. She enlists three aimless high schoolers in a plot to kill her husband so as to unburden her to pursue her career. With sex as a tool it is easy to convince the moronically dim Jimmy who masturbates to her late night forecasts to come on board. The three teens Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck and Allison Foland are uniformly brilliant particularly Phoenix as the clueless doomed Jimmy. Her husband Larry (Matt Dillon)it might be said is in the same boat. Dillon along with Ileana Douglas and Wayne Knight fill out the solid supporting cast as narrators and victims of Susan.
Buck Henry's biting script shows he has not lost his edge since his Graduate days. Director Van Zant's vision of a fin de siecle cross section of America is brutal and original. From those laboring for the American Dream to the bleak Lidsville existence of the teens Die burns with both nervous energy and tragic-comic farce. Accompanied by an all inclusive period music score Vant Zant's wide angle is both brazen and revealing from gaudy colored suburban drab sterility with hints of incest to tragic siding housing and an auto graveyard landscape that serves as a playground to the teens. Told in flash forward and back Van Zant's pace never lingers for a moment as it rapidly presents an in your face comic and tragic pastiche of dark Americana. Van Zant admirably expresses it with a bold visual flair keeping scenes lean and sharp that over a dozen years later still retain there power and energy. It is a vibrant piece of film making and a 90s classic.
This one starts fast and just runs from there. It's not a perfect film
so there are a few flat spots but over all lots of laughs and even a
few surprises. Dillon is sweet and passive as the loving husband and is
seemingly wasted as his writing is contrary to the majority of his
other roles. But he pulls it off even though he's not in that many
scenes. Lots of fun TV faces here too, Newman, Red and of course Mr.
Tortelli! But the best cameo of all has to be Mr. Cronenberg.
A fun, stylized, moody film that does have a nice level of intensity and to it's credit comes full circle. It has an ending and a nice one at that. No loose ends or ambiguity, very appreciated. No problem recommending this one to just about anyone, even if they're not a Kidman fan. I'm not!
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