A black comedy in which an ammoral and ambitious news personality seduces a teenager to convince him to murder her husband.
Genre: Feature Film-Comedy
Release Date: 7-AUG-2001
Media Type: DVD
""To Die For" is a great little gem of a movie that, in my opinion, ranks as one of the best dark comedies of the last decade. Nicole Kidman, in what is probably her finest performance to date, is stunning as Suzanne "Stone" - her real name is Maretto - a completely self-absorbed, amoral, and utterly ruthless young woman who will let nothing stand in the way of her obtaining her goal of being a "television star". The film is shot in the style of a slightly wacky TV documentary, which only adds to the fun, as we see the "post-tragedy" interviews with those who were involved with the late Miss Stone. Stone is an attractive but cold-blooded blonde in a small New England town who is desperate to become a national celebrity on a national TV News Network. As proof of her warped psyche, she tells the audience "You're a nobody if you're not on TV" - which unfortunately does seem to accurately describe the feelings of many people these days. She's also determined to move up the social ladder in her little town, and so as the film begins she seduces and marries the handsome quarterback of the high school football team (Matt Dillon), the most popular boy in town. Dillon's sister despises Suzanne and sees right through her facade, but Dillon is so entranced he doesn't listen. Dillon goes on to work in his father's pizzeria, but Suzanne obtains a job as the weather forecaster for the local rinky-dink TV station, and begins to have dreams of glory. One of the darkly funny aspects of this film is that for all of Suzanne's scheming and ruthlessness she's not very bright, and her attempts to sound and act "sophisticated" are often hilariously inept. When her faithful but old-fashioned hubby tells her to quit her job and help him with the family business, she decides he's "impeding" her career and that she'll have to kill him. So she seduces an underage teenage geek (hilariously played by a very young Joaquin Phoenix), has a torrid sexual affair with him, and then convinces him to murder her hubby. At first she uses the shock of the murder to obtain further publicity - "you've got to think of your career first" - from the local and state media. Unfortunately, her underage love affair is discovered and she is ruined. Ever undaunted, she begins plotting her comeback, but Dillon's family (they are Italian), has a little surprise planned for their murderous in-law. Kidman's performance is dead-on - she plays Stone as a parody of the type of person who will do ANYTHING - even murder - to get on TV and become "somebody". The supporting cast is also excellent. The most troubling part of this film is that it was loosely based on a real story - an attractive New Hampshire schoolteacher who by most appearances had everything seduced a fifteen-year-old student and convinced him to kill her husband - apparently so she could leave her hometown and try to become "famous" in the big city. "To Die For" may seem like a delicious but improbable story - but it's really not all that far from today's news headlines. Ouch!"
ICY, SATIRICAL DARK COMEDY
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 01/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nothing like a little dark humor and feminine fangs to make a mash of the culture driven by 15-minutes-of-fame. In this case, a riveting Nicole Kidman as a perky, self-obsessed suburban nutcase who has big dreams of finding fame and fortune, even at the expense of her husband. Directed by Gus Van Sant in his usual cobbled-together manner (hoary, quasi-documentary devices to propel the screenplay, regular flashbacks, direct-to-the-camera diction, etc..) based on Buck Henry's trippy adaptation of a novel by the same name. The result is a pleasantly watchable movie that moves quickly and keeps you guessing the limits to which our protagonist would limp to achieve her ambitious goals. I felt that the premise, beyond its chirpy surface, is quite thought-provoking. If our perky weather reporter were to be successful in her quest then we could believe that total dedication to a quest is admirable and ultimately rewarded -- regardless of the means employed. Can we condone murder though? Perhaps we are offered a tongue-in-cheek hyperbole that extremes are necessary if we are to escape our station in life. This movie apart from amusing you will surely leave you with something to savor, not just off its theme but from the brilliant supporting performances of Casey Affleck, Matt Dillon and especially Joaquin Phoenix. Recommended rental."
Lauren | Ohio, USA | 05/07/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wow...what a movie! And the fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more fun to watch. Kidman fans will go crazy over this film because it is one of her most ravishing performances to date! She is EXCELLENT in the role of the blonde seductress, Suzanne Maretto. Suzanne is an aspiring television newscaster and she is willing to do ANYTHING to become famous! When she starts to feel smothered and "held back" by her husband (played by Matt Dillon) she decides to manipulate 3 teenagers (played by Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck-the younger brother of Ben Affleck, and Allison Folland) into killing him. A dark but witty film that will satisfy hardcore Kidman fans. A supporting cast of Illeana Douglas (who plays Matt Dillon's sister) and Dan Hedaya (who plays his father) works well also. This movie was actually remade for TV in 1991, called "Murder in New Hampshire" starring a young Helen Hunt, although it wasn't as good as this one!"
A wicked gem of a film
Billie Mann | USA | 05/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Portrait of a Female Psychopathic Narcissist
Cedric's Mom | San Diego, CA USA | 03/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"To Die For is an excellent, detailed portrait of a female narcissist. This movie is no comedy. If you ever have the great misfortune of tangling with one of these psychopaths, trust me, you WONT be laughing.
Nicole Kidman plays Suzanne Stone, the girl who grows up as the center of her family's never-ending attention, the Golden Child Who Can Do No Wrong. As life goes on, Suzanne hones her manipulation skills, and marries Larry (played by Matt Dillon), who reflects back to Suzanne the image of herself that she wants to believe and see. Perfect!
That is, until Larry demands that the marriage include him. In bed one morning soon after being wed, Larry wants to make love with Suzanne. She icily shoves his hand away saying "get your hands off me." She has to get ready for work, to "fix my face" for the world. It's performance time, and Suzanne is always on. Larry just doesn't get it. Their life is about HER, not them. When Larry broaches the topics of having children and her helping him out in the family restaurant business, Suzanne decides he has to go. This girl has global aspirations. She won't be marginalized with motherhood and a family business!
When Suzanne lands a job at a community TV station, she turns a small job fetching coffee and running errands into her role as the weather girl reporting from "The Weather Center." She soon executes one of her many grandiose schemes: making a documentary about high school teenagers in their natural habitat. Enter Joaquin Phoenix's character Jimmy Emmet, an introspective but deeply lost teenager who falls hard for Suzanne. She soon sexually manipulates Jimmy into doing her bidding, with promises of eternal love and "then we can always be together." Her blinding charisma engulfs Jimmy and friends Russel and Lydia, and of course she heartlessly kicks them all to the curb the instant she achieves her goal.
If you know anything about narcissism, you'll see all the high points in To Die For: grandiosity, complete disregard for the feelings of others, ice-cold manipulation, and lightning-fast betrayal once the narcissist has achieved her goal. You're seeing how a psychopath operates. If only the narcissists of the world found the same fate as Suzanne Stone. I strongly recommend To Die For. "