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To Die For (1995)
To Die For is a 1995 dark comedy film, made in a mockumentary format, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Buck Henry, based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, which in turn was based on the Pamela Smart story. It stars Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, and Joaquin Phoenix. Major supporting roles feature Illeana Douglas, Wayne Knight, Casey Affleck, Kurtwood Smith, Dan Hedaya, and Alison Folland. Kidman was nominated for a BAFTA and won a Golden Globe Award for her performance. The film includes cameos by George Segal, David Cronenberg, author Maynard, and screenwriter Henry. It features original music by Danny Elfman. Living in the fictional seaside village of Little Hope, New Hampshire, Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman), a young, beautiful, and ruthless woman dreams of being a world-famous news anchor. To that end, she marries Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon), because she believes his family business will keep her financially comfortable, and starts attempting to climb the network news ladder, beginning as a weather girl at a local cable station, WWEN.
Told in half-flashback, half-mockumentary style, the film traces the events leading up to the murder of the Suzanne's husband, Larry (Matt Dillon). We see Suzanne trying to get ahead in the media world, carving out a career for herself at a low budget cable station. We also see large stretches of Suzanne creating a meaningless documentary about modern teenagers, wherein three kids (including drugged-out zombie Jimmy, played by an unwatchable Joaquin Phoenix) are interviewed ad nauseam. All the while, key relatives try to get to the bottom of the mystery: who killed Larry, and why?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is almost painfully obvious from the movie's first frame. As far as the term 'thriller' is concerned, To Die For is completely off base. On a comic level, though, the film is worthwhile. Buck Henry's smart script and ear for humor is responsible for this, creating a 'nice' story that usually amuses and overcomes the one-dimensional drama.
In the end, I was hoping for a whole lot more, given all the buzz around the film. With a farce like this, you really have to take the lunacy almost to absurdity, but Suzanne never even gets out of Little Hope (get it?), New Hampshire. Where is Suzanne in Hollywood? Where is The Trial of the Century? Well, I guess those scenes were cut out in earlier drafts.... The result is a less than satisfying ending that left me saying, 'That's it?'
That was it.