TO DIE FOR (1995)
This is a revisionist noir comedy in which a rather confused, dim-witted, misguidedly ambitious and emotionally unstable woman (Nicole Kidman) seduces a teenage boy (Joaquin Phoenix) into murdering her husband (Matt Dillon) so that she’ll be more free to pursue her dream career as a talking head on the news.
I tend to dislike Gus Van Sant movies, but this one is one of my favorites ever. It’s rare, even in classic noir movies, that an actress can reach the extreme level of irresistible sexiness required to convince an audience that she could really get guys to murder each other for her. I mean, the choice is either to make the suckers who fall for the femme fatale total fools (which isn’t very fun) or just create a situation where everyone in the audience is thinking, “Yeah, I’d probably do it too.” Nicole Kidman really was special in the 90’s. Between this and Eyes Wide Shut, I’d say she holds up against the greatest Hollywood actresses of the past. Of course, it’s hard to see her that way now, knowing what she became later. This is an insane performance, the only way to pull off Buck Henry’s wacky and eccentric script. This is also Joaquin Phoenix’s first, and definitely best, performance. And Alison Folland is especially memorable as a friend of the teenage boy who becomes equally influenced and obsessed. It’s one of those inspired noir supporting roles that actually becomes the most memorable part of the movie.