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USA 1995
Directed by
Gus Van Sant
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

To Die For

Although Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, adapted by veteran screenwriter Buck Henry (his best known film is probably The Graduate,1967) from a novel of the same name tends to overstate its point about the perils of celebrity culture (admittedly less of a given then perhaps than today) it is an engaging satirical black comedy with a stand-out performance by Nicole Kidman who plays a none-too-bright woman whose all-consuming passion is to be on TV.

She inveigles her way into a job as the weather girl on the local cable channel and devotes all her time plotting to become famous. Recently married to Larry (Matt Dillon) a cute-looking guy but whose ambition is limited to working in his family’s the Italian eatery she is rustrated by the smallness of his ideas and cooks up a plan to get three dimwits from the local high school,  Jimmy (Joaquin Phoenix), Russell (Casey Affleck) and Lydia (Alison Folland) to dispose of him.The film is loosely based on a real-life story

Kidman, in a role that was originally intended for Meg Ryan (she often looks like her), does a wonderful job in making Suzanne a likeable mixture of witless naivety, blunt cluelessness and ruthless calculation. It is easy to how her cheap charms could make such willing dupes of the kids. In this respect one can’t help but feel sorry for Jimmy (an eye-catching performance by Phoenix) who has a crush on Suzanne. Casey Affleck, also just starting out on what would become a varied career is solid as Jimmy's best. The rest of the cast including Dillon, who had starred in Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Folland, making her screen debut, Illeana Douglas, Dan Hedaya and Buck Henry, who plays the well-over-it high school teacher, all add to the fun.




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