To Die For 1995 ★★★½

If you had told me that one of the greatest black comedies of the '90s was going to come from the director of Gerry and Drugstore Cowboy, I wouldn't have believed you. But man, Gus Van Sant really delivered here in what I think is easily the most unique work of his career. This isn't something that I would have expected from him at all and I really wish he would delve back into this genre because he is aces. From the genius opening credits sequence, which laces hard rock, razor-sharp editing and a fairy-tale score, you can tell that this is going to be a unique and bizarre experience.

Unlike many films, Van Sant fully delivers on the promise from those opening minutes. I've never been a fan of structures that rely on using interviews with the characters to retrace the steps of the story, but I didn't seem to mind it as much here, probably due to how many laughs those interviews were able to pull out of me. It also helps that using that style plugs directly into the satire of the whole piece, a real biting commentary on the dangers and absurdity of popular media.

Suzanne Stone, played with groundbreaking skill by Nicole Kidman, is one of the worst possible outcomes of our media-obsessed culture; an ignorant, vain and truly hopeless woman that couldn't be less likeable if she tried. She is our plug in to the satire here and what follows is a delightfully twisted and bleak tale of a horrible woman doing horrible things. Looking up the film after watching it, I was amazed that it was actually based on true events. Van Sant creates an excellent style here, along with the help of a dreamy, unsettling and utterly hypnotizing score from Danny Elfman, but the true star is absolutely Kidman.

I mentioned how I wanted Van Sant to do more films like this, but I desperately want Kidman to do more as well, because she is on fire. Suzanne Stone is an absolutely abhorrent creature and the best part of the film is that Kidman doesn't try to make her anything else. Most actresses, especially that early in their career, would feel the need to add something likeable to the character or give some sort of a wink to the audience to let them know that she's in on the joke too, but Kidman goes for broke and dives into this character so completely.

She's one of the most unlikeable characters I've ever seen in film, but Kidman is so absorbed in that role and the writing is so good that you can't look away from her, just having an urgent need to keep watching in the hopes that the bitch gets what's coming to her. A wickedly sharp, intelligent and brutally funny film with impressively unique work from everyone involved. It also features a David Cronenberg cameo that is my new favorite thing.

2 Comments

  • I'm hesitantly curious as to what your response to 'Birth' would be, when you get the chance to watch it. I know you love Kidman here and in 'Eyes Wide Shut', and her performance in 'Birth' is among my top favourites of hers along with the two aforementioned.

  • One of these days I'm just going to have a double-feature of "Birth" and "Dogville". They're practically her two most acclaimed performances, I own them both and yet I still haven't watched them.

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