Sunday, March 22, 2015

To Die For

Movie Name: To Die For
Year of Release: 1995
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, Illeana Douglas, Casey Affleck, Alison Folland, Dan Hedaya, Wayne Knight, Kurtwood Smith, Holland Taylor, Susan Traylor, Maria Tucci, Tim Hopper, Michael Rispoli, Buck Henry, David Cronenberg, George Segal
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Following the poor reception of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues", director Gus Van Sant returned in 1995 with "To Die For", which is still one of the best titles of his excellent filmography. An adaptation of the book by Joyce Maynard, the film follows the story of Suzanne Stone, an ambitious small town weather channel girl, who wants to climb the professional ladder and become a nationwide tv anchorwoman. Suzanne has always, since she was a small child, aimed to be famous. She marries Larry Maretto, a local restaurant owner, who slowly becomes an impediment to her goals, which makes Suzanne devise plans to get him out of the way. Things don't go exactly according to plan, but in the end, they make her a well known name on the news.
Gus Van Sant has been able throughout his career to navigate more mainstream efforts, with his more personal aesthetic and themes (good examples of both are "Good Will Hunting" and "Elephant", respectively). "Drugstore Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho" clearly established him as a voiced to be heard, but "To Die For" was the first film to showcase his talents to a much wider audience. An almost perfect satire for the media obsessed society we all live in, Suzanne Stone's story is in many ways as pertinent now as it was 20 years ago. The obsession with being onscreen, the culture of vanity and attention, the ruthlessness of ambition, the lack of morals, all this is still on par with what is currently on television (it's the case of shows like "Keeping with the Kardashians"). The director smartly places Suzanne at the center of the narrative - she addresses the camera directly, since she's making her own documentary about her own life story. In parallel, there's an actual documentary crew making their own story on Suzanne - all these feeds, make the film dynamic and superbly funny. The film also features fantastic performances from Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix and Illeana Douglas (this is perhaps Nicole Kidman's finest performance to date). A terrific film always worth watching!