THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, October 7, 1995 TAG: 9510060050 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E3 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 77 lines
``TO DIE FOR'' is a movie to die for.
In a world in which the likes of Kato Kaelin and Joey What's-His-Face can become celebrities, this movie is smack dab on target in its attack on the TV media monster.
The ``heroine,'' Suzanne Stone, is a small-town girl who just wants a lot of attention. She believes that the world is divided into two types of people - those who are famous and those who aren't.
The part is played with a sassy and delightfully naive air of determination by Nicole Kidman. She is assured an Oscar nomination.
Suzanne badgers her boss at the local TV station to give her a job as weather girl. She tries valiantly to add little flourishes to her job.
She eventually persuades the weary and bemused boss to let her film a documentary called ``Teens Speak Out.'' She chooses a group of scuz misfits who, he points out, ``would find it difficult to recite the days of the week.'' Nonetheless, she goes about the job with great enthusiasm. She plans to become the next Jane Pauley as she declares that ``in America, you're nothing if you're not on TV.''
Her good-hearted but simple, husband, Larry, views all this with tolerant amusement. She's his golden girl. He's proud of her being on TV, but he'd rather she stayed home and had babies. When she learns of his viewpoint, she sees him as a threat to her nonexistent career. He must be eliminated.
She chooses the most lively of her documentary's three nearly comatose teen subjects to kill off the husband. She whips sloe-eyed Joaquin Phoenix (the late River Phoenix's younger brother) into such a passionate dither that he willingly accepts the job.
Matt Dillon, a teen superstar who never quite grew out of it, is quite good as the dullard husband.
Alison Folland brings a great deal of vulnerability to Lydia, an awkward teen who idolizes Suzanne.
A true standout, perhaps earning a supporting Oscar nomination, is Illeana Douglas' hilarious performance as Larry's sister, Janice, the only one who sees through Suzanne's act. She knows that Suzanne is no more than a poser, even if her befuddled brother and family can't see it.
Janice, who isn't as pretty as Suzanne, is in the Ice Capades and may get the Peggy Lipton role in an upcoming ice tribute to ``The Mod Squad.'' But everyone is ga-ga about Suzanne's TV job instead. Janice and Suzanne face off in threatening matches of one-upmanship. It's something to watch.
Gus Van Sant more than makes up for last year's disastrous ``Even Cowgirls Get the Blues'' with this telling little satire on the TV generation. Written by Buck Henry (``The Graduate''), it is the best study of celebrity mania since Andy Griffith's memorable performance in Elia Kazan's ``A Face in the Crowd.'' What we have here is a world in which every face on the box is a star, and everyone else is willing to passively watch.
By all means, you should watch this one. Kidman is hilarious, and so is the film. ILLUSTRATION: KERRY HAYES
Suzanne (Nicole Kidman) seduces a teenager (Joaquin Phoenix) into
plotting to kill her husband.
``To Die For''
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Buck Henry, based on Joyce Maynard book
Music: Danny Elfman
MPAA rating: R (sexual situations, strong language, brief
Mal's rating: ****
Locations: Greenbrier 13 in Chesapeake; Janaf in Norfolk;
Columbus, Lynnhaven 8 in Virginia Beach