Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: To Die For (1995)

Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone

Directed by Gus van Sant
Produced by Laura Ziskin
Written by Buck Henry (screenplay); Joyce Maynard (novel)
Starring Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas, Alison Folland, and Matt Dillon


As a dark comedy, To Die For is just what it's title suggests it is. Nicole Kidman gives a Golden Globe-winning performance as the weather reporter with dreams of fame: Suzanne Maretto, aka Suzanne Stone. As she takes a job at a local cable station, her new hubby (Dillon) starts to focus on raising a family and expanding his family's restaurant. Suzanne, in the meantime, is hard at work on a television documentary about some of the local teenagers named James (Phoenix), Russel (Affleck), and Lydia (Folland), and she eventually begins sleeping with James. Then her husband starts to press her about quitting her job to start a family, which sends her over the edge. From here on, she has James and Russel murder her husband, and she is eventually taken care of through her Italian father-in-law's mob connections.

This film is, admittedly, much improved by Kidman's completely tantalizing and slightly sinister portrayal of this determined woman. Adapted from Joyce Maynard's novel, the script is divided into a series of flashbacks intercut with interviews of people who knew Suzanne and her husband, and this is handled well by the renowned indie director Gus van Sant. The focus on the characters is paramount, and he does a fine job, though no character can shine like Suzanne here. Let's face it: this is Kidman's film. The rest of the cast fit their characters, yet I do think Matt Dillon is miscast as a quiet Italian boy from the neighborhood. Also, Danny Elfman's score is his trademark jangler, and it helps keep the film moving. Though this film has been forgotten by almost all but hardcore Kidman fans, it is a star vehicle for Kidman that is great fun. Her performance alone merits a watch for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Oscar Tally: None (Kidman totally deserved a nomination at least!)


  1. Good review Josh. I haven't seen this film in so long but I remember that Kidman's performance was awesome and Van Sant's use of color worked so well to convey both emotions of thriller and comedy. Not a memorable flick, but a good one to say the least.

    1. Thanks Dan. I'm in love with Kidman's performance, which boosted the film to a 3 1/2. Though I can't say whether the film is memorable or not yet, I can see why one could think that.

  2. My favorite work by Kidman - I think this should have been her Oscar win. I also adored Illeana Douglas, but I agree Matt Dilon didn't really fit the film.

    1. It's now my favorite work by her as well. She should have won for this, but at least she did win an Oscar. Douglas was great too. How did I forget to mention her?