To Die For

To Die For (Gus Van Sant, 1995)

An aspiring television personality manipulates a group of teenagers into killing her husband, who[m] she sees as a threat to her career.

Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, Alison Folland

One, not particularly useful, way to see this movie is a mocodoco - or mockumentary, to use the more familiar term - as all of the major characters are seen in interview situations on occasion throughout the film, from beginning to ending, from Suzanne Stone's 'interview' (which it turns out she is directing herself) to Lydia Mertz' ('it turns out I'm the one who's going to be famous').

Another approach is think about it in Guy Debord's 1967 terms, as the 'society of the spectacle'. Suzanne says early on, and is quoted at the end, as saying that the only thing that matters is being seen, hence on TV, because on TV everyone is good, or something along those lines. Lydia points out that if everyone is on TV then no-one is watching it. The truth lies somewhere in between. Or maybe not.

What puzzles me (again!) is how to assess the acting of Nicole Kidman. It's not realistic, but then neither was that of Marilyn Monroe, of whom no-one reminds me more than Kidman in this film. On the other hand, it takes in a vast range of expressions and styles. Maybe it's just sui generis.

Here's another thought that might not be relevant. In watching the work of Tennessee Williams, a gay playwright not allowed to write about gay relationships, one looks for the barely hidden relationships (Brick and Skipper, eg). This director (Buck Henry wrote it, not Van Sant himself, however ...) often makes films about young gay men. Maybe Kidman's character in this is tending to be, at a supertextual level, that of a gay icon (cf. Judy Garland) if not actually a fag hag, in the realistic aspect. Or neither.

Links and Notes

IMDb page

Wikipedia page

Nicole Kidman (b. 1967, Honolulu) won Best Actress Oscar for The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002) - bad decision. Another bad judgement was her nomination for Best Actress Oscar for Lion (Garth Davis, 2016) in which she was even worse. It's just movie industry politics. But she was very good in Dead Calm (Peter Weir, 1989) before she got absorbed into the Hollywood machine.
For this film she won the BAFTA Best Actress award: interesting, especially as the film received no Oscar nominations at all.


Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 1 June, 2017 | Now: 2 June, 2017