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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

To Die For

It’s interesting when you watch a movie that you have clear memories of seeing at the video store, but you were too young to rent so you never gave much thought about seeing it. I can remember seeing the box art for Gus Van Sant’s 1995 movie “To Die For” and wondering to myself “What is that movie about?” I can recall seeing the ads for it on TV which made it seem like it promised something sexy and about murder. Yet, there was always something in the material that made it seem like maybe it was sorta funny. Confusing to me at the age of 10. 

Last week, I finally watched “To Die For” as it comes out in a new 4K UHD release from The Criterion Collection. Knowing very little about the movie, and with those wonders about the film still floating around in my mind, I was happily surprised, after the disc showed up at my doorstep, looking over the credits on the back and found it was written by one of my favorites, the great Buck Henry. 

Based on a novel by Joyce Maynard, “To Die For” is a darkly funny movie that satirizes, and feels weirdly predictive, of our true-crime, 24/7 non-ending news cycle times. Nicole Kidman gives an incredible performance as Suzanne Stone. A TV weather reporter on a small, local channel. Suzanne has a perky personality, and dreams of being a famous reporter. She’s driven and determined to find this fame, through any means necessary. 

Suzanne meets and marries Larry Maretto (played by Matt Dillon), whose family owns and runs a popular local eatery. During their marriage, Suzanne, in her attempt to further her career, convinces her boss at the TV station to let her make a documentary series about the lives of local teenagers in the area. The three teens who agree to take part, who are all somewhat infatuated with Suzanne, start to spend more time with her, and that’s when things turn a little deadly. 

“To Die For” really surprised me, I liked this one a great deal, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, which is the best kind of movie surprise. It’s funny and has a great cast that in addition to Kidman and Dillon includes: Joaquin Phoenix, Ileana Douglas, Dan Hedaya, Wayne Knight, and Buck Henry himself in a great turn as a very vexed school teacher. The film is presented in a quasi-documentary style that also threw me. It makes for a very good experience. 

The Criterion Collection brings “To Die For” to 4K blu-ray in a director’s approved combo pack with a 4K UHD disc, with the movie presented in Dolby Vision, and a regular blu-ray that contains some of the extra features. This new 4K digital restoration was taken from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The final work was approved by both director Gus Van Sant, and the film’s director of photography, Eric Alan Edwards. 

Though I can’t compare this new edition to any previous release of the film, the 4K transfer is phenomenal! Colors are bright and solid, but not overbearing. The film is clear, sharp, and has a fantastic grain structure. It looks very much like watching a 35mm print on my 4K OLED TV. Fans of this film should be pleased. Audio on both discs presents the original 5.1 surround audio track, remastered and in lossless, high-resolution DTS-HD Master Audio. The mix isn’t the most dynamic, as this film doesn’t require that, but it sounds clear and sharp. It’s a great release. 

The extras on this release are light but very good. First, we have a brand new commentary track for the film recorded last year. This commentary features Van Sant, Edwards, and the film’s editor Curtiss Clayton. It’s a good track with all sharing stories of the making the film, it’s well worth your time. On the regular blu-ray, the film’s trailer is offered, as well as half an hour of deleted scenes. There’s also an essay by film critic Jessica Klang that comes with the included insert. 

“To Die For” is a darkly funny film anchored by an amazing performance by Nicole Kidman, for fans of the film this new 4K edition from Criterion is worth having, and I was delighted to finally see the film and be surprised by it. I enjoyed it immensely and this is one you should pick up. See you next week. 


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