Gus Van Sant is one of the most consistently interesting of American directors, and this is one of his most outstanding achievements, falling just behind Milk in the list of his most enjoyable. It is a satire about a young woman, Suzanne Stone, who will stop at nothing to become a TV celebrity, which at a certain point means murdering her well-intentioned but rather dopey husband. It is at this point that the plot gets very interesting, and if anything the material has become even more relevant now than when the film was made, with people feeling even more that life only matters if it is being filmed or others are watching through social media. The film refracts much of the information we get through different screens and other media; interviews intercut the narrative from some point in the future, but are not all from the same source, so a brilliant collage is formed. Above all, it is very sharp, and the acting allows its humour to be intensely felt: Nicole Kidman is fantastic as Stone, getting absolutely on the mark the character's conviction that she is brighter than she really is; innocent youth is brilliantly represented by the school-age trio she takes for a ride, led by a touching Joaquin Phoenix, and the husband is put across winningly by the ever-reliable Matt Dillon. Illeana Douglas also brings class as the ice-skating sister who is onto Suzanne but can do nothing about it. It is Phoenix, though, who makes you aware of what the film is lacking, at one moment in interview when he breaks down and cries, saying "we loved each other". Of course, he did love her, but the film is generally too chill and wised up to allow real emotion too much leeway ...
Gus Van Sant’s dark media satire appeared in 1995 but it is as relevant now as it was then, arguably more so, since although it explores the pervasive influence of television (in particular the cult of celebrity) its observations may be extended to include social medial. The movie is set in the aptly named small New Hampshire town of Little Hope and concerns the twisted obsessive ambition of an amoral wannabe media professional who believes that “you’re not really anybody in America unless you’re on TV” and who will do anything it takes to reach her goal of becoming a world-famous television news anchor. Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of local cable station weather girl Suzanne Stone is inspired. Suzanne is attractive, self-delusional, narcissistic and manipulative, who imagines herself to be intelligent (her regurgitating of pseudo-truisms is priceless) and through her alluring charm and persistency is able to persuade people to do her bidding. The movie is presented as a crime mockumentary with straight to camera interviews and flashbacks, adopting the style and utilising the techniques of tabloid television programmes it is satirising. Although Kidman’s performance is undoubtedly excellent, sound support is provided by Matt Dillon (as her ‘nice but dim’ conventional husband); Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck and Alison Folland (as gullible inarticulate disadvantaged misfit teenagers she befriends and exploits) and has notable cameo appearances by Buck Henry, George Segal and David Cronenberg. Approaching the quality of Sidney Lumet’s Network and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler this gem of a movie exploring the pernicious nature of television is definitely worth seeking out.
I love the atmosphere in this one. Suzanne's obsession with fame and her dark ambition is juxtaposed with the passive townsfolk around her, most of whom seem content to lead mostly nine-to-five, mediocre lives. This is ironic, seeing as many of them also see Suzanne for who she really is right from the get-go. To Die For is entertaining from beginning to end, and the ending is especially satisfying. It's funny in ways that almost make you feel a little guilty for laughing.
This has to be one of my favourite films of all time. Nicole Kidman is superbly seductive in this movie about a local TV weather girl who wants to excel in the world of news reporting. Matt Dillon plays the ignorant husband unaware of his wife's dark plans for him. The best performance comes from a younger Joaquin Phoenix as the dimwitted high school student besotted by the stunning redhead who has requested Jimmy's (Phoenix) help on a project. He is sucked into Miss Kidman's plans and used along the way. This film is fantastic. Stunning performances all round. A fantastic plot, Nicole Kidman for the guys and Matt Dillon for the girls. (Well Joaquin Phoenix has a mullet!) All in all a wonderful film. Buy it!!
Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) will do anything to be the next Barbara Walters. She starts out as a small town weather girl and makes a TV documentary with some high school students, while hatching a diabolical scheme to kill her husband (Matt Dillon) whose ambitions don't match her own.
Loosely based on the true story of Pamela Wojas Smart, this movie is a clever comedy focusing on the blind ambition of Kidman's character. She plays her as an outwardly dumb blonde who is, in fact, ruthless and willing to do anything to be famous. Joaquin Phoenix plays Stone's teenage lover who blindly carries out her plan. He's quite young-looking and completely believable as the adolescent pawn in her deadly chess game.
The story is filmed like a documentary, in keeping with Suzanne's goal of being a celebrated interviewer. Having the characters speak into the camera reduced the tension but increased the humor, as most of the people involved were completely gullible and fell under Suzanne's spell. It's a macabre story played mostly for laughs with good acting all around.
Nicole Kidman: star of Moulin Rouge, Australia and multi-million dollar perfume ads. Great performances in great movies but when you strip away the huge budgets you'll find some of Kidman's best performances are in her smaller indie movies and To Die For is one of the best. Kidman plays a great, complex character and her performance creates empathy for this magnificent character. Many actresses would play it too hysterical but Kidman finds the perfect balance between manipulative and desperate while always keeping us on her side. All reviews talked about her performance and she reaped a lot of awards for the part, justly earned but perhaps causing people to forget that the film is more than just one magnificent performance. Director Gus Van Sant keeps the innovative indie stylings of 'My Own Private Idaho' but with the mainstream accessibility of 'Good Will Hunting' it is also one of his funniest films. More great performances come in early roles for both Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck and the underrated Matt Dillon. A great indie film where the performances really shine and Van Sant mixes documentary style with some surreal images that will bring you back to this film again and again.