To Die For


To Die For

Critics Consensus

Smart, funny, and thoroughly well-cast, To Die For takes a sharp - and sadly prescient - stab at dissecting America's obsession with celebrity.



Total Count: 56


Audience Score

User Ratings: 34,825
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Movie Info

The price of fame is murder -- or at least it is in the mind of one woman in New Hampshire. Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) has spent most of her life wanting to be famous; she's attractive, speaks well, and imagines herself to be intelligent ("imagines" is the key word here), so she has set her sights on becoming a TV anchorwoman. However, opportunities for female broadcasters are hard to come by in Little Hope, New Hampshire, and she's convinced that her husband, the once handsome but now flabby restaurant manager Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon), is just getting in her way. Suzanne gets herself a spot hosting a weather report on a local public access station, and is preparing a documentary called "Teens Speak Out," which puts her in touch with a trio of high school students -- Jimmy (Joaquin Phoenix), Russell (Casey Affleck), and Lydia (Alison Folland) -- who are even more desperate for attention than she is. When Suzanne hatches a plot to get Larry out of her life once and for all, she uses Jimmy, who has developed a serious crush on her, to do her dirty work, but Larry's sister Janice (Illeana Douglas), who has long believed there was something fishy about Suzanne, eventually begins to realize what happened to her brother. Nicole Kidman won a Golden Globe award for her work in this film, which represented something of a comeback for director Gus Van Sant after the commercial and critical disaster of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Screenwriter Buck Henry plays a small role as a high school teacher. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Nicole Kidman
as Suzanne Stone Maretto
Matt Dillon
as Larry Maretto
Joaquin Phoenix
as Jimmy Emmett
Casey Affleck
as Russell Hines
Illeana Douglas
as Janice Maretto
Alison Folland
as Lydia Mertz
Dan Hedaya
as Joe Maretto
Wayne Knight
as Ed Grant
Kurtwood Smith
as Earl Stone
Holland Taylor
as Carol Stone
Susan Traylor
as Faye Stone
Maria Tucci
as Angela Maretto
Tim Hopper
as Mike Warden
Michael Rispoli
as Ben DeLuca
Buck Henry
as Mr. H. Finlaysson
Tom Forrester
as Fisherman
Nadine MacKinnon
as Sexy Woman
Conrad Coates
as Weaselly Guy
Ian Heath
as Student
Sean Ryan
as Student
Nicholas Pasco
as Detective
David Collins
as Reporter
Eve Crawford
as Reporter
Janet Lo
as Reporter
David Cronenberg
as Man at Lake
Tom Quinn
as Skating Promoter
Amber-Lee Campbell
as Suzanne at Five
Colleen Williams
as Valerie Mertz
Philip Williams
as Babe Hines
Susan Backs
as June Hines
Kyra Harper
as Mary Emmett
Adam Roth
as Band Member
Andrew Scott
as Band Member
Tamara Gorski
as Girl at Bar
Katie Griffin
as Girl at Bar
Carla Renee
as Girl at Bar
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Critic Reviews for To Die For

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (15)

Audience Reviews for To Die For

  • May 28, 2014
    So, this is supposed to be a "mockumentary" style interpretation of "actual events", which is almost as confusing as the tone that they're trying to convey for this dark comedy-drama in the marketing. Man, this may be a comedy, that's a chilling title, and you know what, this film also has a pretty chilling poster. Nicole Kidman kind of looks like a vampire in it, although I might be thinking of 1989's "To Die For", which was probably the real comedy here... even though neither I nor anyone else saw it. Yeah, I'm probably the only person who thinks of that "To Die For" sooner than this one, or even worse, 1994's "To Die For". It too is a comedy drama from the mid-1990s, and on top of all of that, it's about gay people problems, so I'm wondering why that wasn't the one made by Gus Van Sant. I don't know, I'm just interested to find that every film with the ominous title "To Die For" is some kind of a comedy, even if they don't intend to be, as is the case with 1989's "To Die For"... I think. Seriously though, if this is supposed to be the definitive one, that's understandable, as it's got plenty of entertainment value, at least to a certain, limited extent. By no means is this satirical dramedy supposed to be all that believable, but there are times in which the histrionics get carried away, or are at least difficult to ignore, because of conventions that are themselves hard to ignore, due to their contradicting some genuine uniqueness. Of course, a lot of the uniqueness rests within style that, in the context of storytelling, is really what gets carried away, for the mockumentary style is utilized so often that it clashes with traditional narrative storytelling and shakes subjective value through tonal unevenness, which isn't to say that overstylization ends there. Driven by snappy editing and occasionally accompanied by wild visuals and set and dialogue pieces, the film is frantic, sometimes, if not often to the point of being pretty annoying, actually, and it doesn't help that most of the characters get to be obnoxious, albeit on purpose, but nevertheless in a frustrating manner. When the film's entertaining liveliness gets carried away, it's overbearing, and when the film is neither all that entertaining nor all that frantic, it's surprisingly slow, dragged out by writing excesses that, if nothing else, elongate major segments to the point of leaving focus to jar upon shifting, with Joaquin Phoenix's ultimately instrumental Jimmy Emmett character being particularly disconcertingly underused. Really, the uneven pacing often gets to be severe to the point of thinning focus, rather than simply shaking its consistency, making it difficult to get a sense for where exactly this narrative is heading, despite a heavy amount of foreshadowing, until it's hard to focus on much more than just how thin this narrative is in a lot of ways. Natural shortcomings are about as big a challenge as anything to the effectiveness of this actually very inspired dark comedy-drama, yet they're not the only challenge, joining inconsistencies to uniqueness, stylistic control, pacing and focus in holding the final product just shy of rewarding. Of course, the final product's coming so close to that point says a lot for the effectiveness of this film, considering the natural shortcomings that, in all fairness, stand to be greater. Loosely inspired by the story of Pamela Smart, with some colorful and dark touches, this film's story concept regarding disturbing secrets behind a woman aiming to be someone of respect is about as intriguing as it is lacking in dynamicity, with a certain potential that even Buck Henry does justice with a script that, for all its conventions and inconsistencies to betray a potentially refreshing plot, is pretty extensive, if excessive with its characterization, as well as sharp with its dialogue and clever with its dark humor. The film is plenty intriguing in concept, and its scripted execution is plenty entertaining, thus, even though Henry's script has its own issues, it's Gus Van Sant who most threatens the film's liveliness, which is even sustained by the film's technical team. The film is overstylized time and again, but once you kind of get a grip on the frantic, often obnoxious style, it's hard to not hold an admiration for it, as Curtiss Clayton delivers on snappy editing that breathes some life into this biting piece about as much as the occasional intriguingly thematic visual. Sharp technical and visual styles do what they can to compensate for directorial shortcomings by Van Sant, who, despite holding the film back with his overambition, also does a good bit to drive the entertainment value of the flick, not just with his orchestration of the aforementioned style, as well as a solid score by Danny Elfman, but with a certain tastefulness whose resonance ranges from charming to tense. The film ought to be more disturbing, just as it ought to be more consistent and lively, and yet, it still entertains and bites pretty thoroughly when it most should, and is otherwise engaging enough through and through to always stand at that brink of enthralling, anchored by a solid cast. Now, in his first adult role, Joaquin Phoenix steals the show in a revelatory portrayal of a mentally and emotionally awkward teen whose lust and love drive him to do disturbing things is rich with nuance and often devastating dramatic layers that ultimately make for quite the rewarding precursor to Phoenix's rise to becoming one of the great actors of his time, but that's not to say that Phoenix steals the spotlight from everybody, as everyone has his or her time to shine, particularly the beautiful Nicole Kidman, whose seductive charm, punctuated by a disturbing presence to sell dark sleaze on a brutal mission to fulfill ambitions, make the Suzanne Stone character a mischievous lead so effective that she borders on iconic. As I said, there are a lot of things in this film that are inspired, maybe even outstanding, and while the final product is ultimately held back by its shortcomings, both natural and consequential, it entertains and grips enough to at least border on engrossing. When it's time to wrap, histrionics and conventions betray what meat there is to a story concept of limited consequence, while obnoxious moments and an unevenness to inconsistencies to pacing and focus further secure the final product's underwhelmingness, still challenged firmly enough by the sharp scripting, style, direction and acting - especially by the show-stealing Joaquin Phoenix and the chilling Nicole Kidman - that make Gus Van Sant's "To Die For" a might entertaining, if sometimes flimsy black comedy-drama. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Apr 03, 2014
    Kidman's performance is perfect . . . equal parts terrifying and hilarious. This might be the only portrait of a psychopath where the psychopath is not some cunning genius, but a rather vacuous moron.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 31, 2012
    'To Die For'. Nicole Kidman exudes sexiness and manipulation in an unforgettable performance as she takes us through the fame-obsessed journey and mind of Suzanne Stone. Joaquin Phoenix is wonderfully creepy, and Gus Van Sant's twisted look at fame, recognition and television still has relevance today.
    c0up   Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2011
    Gus Van Sant's "To Die For" a devilishly dark satire which blends humor, tragedy, and sex is sure to have different appeals for everyone but it is well worth a watch. The real reason to watch this movie is the stunning erotic and completely captivating acting of Nicole Kidman as a sultry TV personality Suzanne Stone who will stop at nothing to see her ambitions fulfilled -- and I mean nothing. Matt Dillon plays her sweet, devoted husband Larry Maretto who is blissfully oblivious to his wife's scheming and Joaquin Pheonix is convincing in his role of a troubled teenage infatuated with the beautiful, sexy but older woman who is manipulated into doing her dirty work while the rest of the gang fills out the ensemble like an exquisitely decorated trailer home.
    Deb S Super Reviewer

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