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To Die For

Year: 1995
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Gus Van Sant
Producer: Laura Ziskin
Writer: Buck Henry
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas, Dan Hedaya, Kurtwood Smith, Wayne Knight

Prior to this movie, Nicole Kidman had been dividing her time between clothes-horse roles for Hollywood (Days of Thunder) and worthy but under-appreciated Australian fare (Flirting) and I'd always found her career completely uninspiring.

But Van Sant's modern fable about the all-or-nothing American dream gone wrong gave her an exciting new dimension as Suzanne Stone, the chirpy blonde whose exterior hides a destructive ambition to make it as a TV star.

Stone marries an ordinary guy (Dillon) who happens to have mob connections, but even that doesn't stop her plotting against him when he starts to stand in her way.

The scene where Larry is telling her that it's time to settle down and have babies and her smile gradually disappears, the background noise gradually fading in a roar, is beautifully evocative of her feelings. Suddenly Larry is just one more obstacle to be taken care of, and Suzanne's not against conspiring with criminals like doltish con Jimmy (Phoenix) to help her do so.

It was partly satirical of the phenomenon of stardom in America and the lengths people will go to to sell their soul to make it big, but mostly it's just an interesting story about a woman with determination to rival the forces of nature.

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