To Die For (1995)

9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great tone, cast, and visuals


Movie Info

Movie Name:  To Die For

Studio:  Rank Organisation

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  September 29, 1995

MPAA Rating:  R


Can you say no?

Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) is a woman with a vision.  She is going to be the next Barbara Walters or Jane Pauley and maybe even bigger…if she gets her shot.  In New Hope, New Hampshire, Suzanne begins her climb at a small local cable station and sets out to make a documentary about children in the area.  When the newlywed’s husband Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon) begins to question Suzanne’s dreams, he becomes another obstacle that Suzanne must overcome…and she’s willing to do anything to achieve it.


The perfect crew of stoners…

Directed by Gus Van Sant, To Die For was adapted by Buck Henry from Joyce Maynard’s 1992 novel To Die For which was based on the Pamela Smart case.  Nicole Kidman received a Golden Globe for her performance and a number of accolades for her role as the fame obsessed Suzanne Stone.

I loved To Die For and felt it kind of got slighted at the Oscars.  The movie has a really odd balance between comedy and drama and gets the balance perfect for the dark comedy.  I had never really been on the Nicole Kidman boat until this movie, but it did a great job changing my perspective of her as an actress.


Love me some Lydia!

The story is one of those odd stories that tells you everything that happened in the opening of the movie.  It shows Matt Dillon is dead and hints on what happens to Kidman’s character in a cutaway that might seem out of place (if you don’t know the movie).  It is shot in a mockumentary style and slowly reveals the story to you.  The Pamela Smart story was pretty well known at the time and even had a TV movie with Helen Hunt called Murder in New Hampshire:  The Pamela Wojas Smart Story…the movie had to stylize the script to help it feel fresh.

Nicole Kidman was a revelation in this movie.  I had seen her in a few things like Dead Calm, but here, she nails it in what is still my favorite of her performances.  She’s cold and calculating but still oblivious and living in a fantasy world where she’s going to be a big hit.


Who’s got the last laugh now, Suzanne?

The surprising thing is that she also has a great supporting cast.  Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck were both newcomers (and Affleck hooked Van Sant up with his brother for Good Will Hunting).   Alison Folland plays the great Lydia who is the perfect white trash slacker.  Matt Dillon is good as the nice (yet blind) Larry Maretto.  I particularly like Illeana Douglas as Dillon’s skating sister who gets the last laugh of the film.  Wayne Knight gets to play a guy who isn’t really a jerk for once, and Dan Hedaya is the angry father-in-law.  The movie also features appearances by the author Joyce Maynard (as Suzanne’s attorney), George Segal, and David Cronenberg as the killer.

To Die For is a great film, and I think its aged rather well.  It was pretty stylized for the time, but the film holds up.  The odd thing that came to me when watching the film now is that in today’s society Suzanne Stone probably would have been able to make it.  Her ideas are a lot of what makes up reality and cable TV today…she might have really been a contender.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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