Review: ‘To Die For’

A quirky comic study of the criminals-as-celebrities syndrome and a very individualized look at the Andy Warhol 15-minutes-of-fame phenomenon, Gus Van Sant's To Die For delivers continuous pinpricks of irreverent humor and subversive cultural commentary.

A quirky comic study of the criminals-as-celebrities syndrome and a very individualized look at the Andy Warhol 15-minutes-of-fame phenomenon, Gus Van Sant’s To Die For delivers continuous pinpricks of irreverent humor and subversive cultural commentary.

Although this is Van Sant’s first film for a major studio, as well as his initial outing with a script by a major screenwriter (other than himself), the picture [based on the book by Joyce Maynard] fully retains the highly idiosyncratic, charmingly ragged feel of his previous, lower-budget productions.

Presented in faux-docu style, pic is narrated straight-to-camera by multiple parties acquainted with the sordid murder of Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon), the working-class husband of glamorous Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) who, it is clear from the outset, has been charged with the crime.

Tending bar in his family Italian restaurant, Larry Maretto is dumbstruck by the awesome blond beauty of Suzanne. The cutest boy in town, he marries her despite the disapproval of his spunky sister Janice (Illeana Douglas), who sees through this China doll from the outset.

Suzanne is a modern monster, a big-timer dabbling with small-timers, a woman who believes that something is important only if it’s seen on the tube. It’s a tough part to play, but Kidman rises to the occasion, displaying great facility at conveying a winning personality, seductiveness, sincerity and utter heartlessness. Van Sant’s mixed-media rough-hewn style is inelegant but full of texture. Film was shot in Canada.

To Die For

Production

Rank/Columbia. Director Gus Van Sant; Producer Laura Ziskin; Screenplay Buck Henry; Camera Eric Alan Edwards; Editor Curtiss Clayton; Music Danny Elfman; Art Director Missy Stewart

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Nicole Kidman Matt Dillon Joaquin Phoenix Casey Affleck Illeana Douglas Alison Folland
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