Commentary on Celebrity: To Die For

Earlier today I was talking with my physical therapist (long story short about that: years of back/shoulder/neck pain) and we were talking about Crash, which I finally saw a few nights ago. We got to talking about Matt Dillon and that led me to discuss one of his best movies, the 1995 dark comedy To Die For. It made a really strong impression on me when I saw it approximately a year and a half ago, especially as the first Gus Van Sant film I’d ever seen. (I’ve seen Good Will Hunting, Psycho, Milk and Restless since then.) To Die For is apparently a very divisive film; I think it’s brilliant but my physical therapist calls it “terrible.” If you ask me, it’s a fascinating look at the myriad horrors of combining sociopathy with an “I’d kill to get ahead” desire for fame. Every actor in the film does a great job, particularly Nicole Kidman as the completely nuts weather girl trying to become famous via TV, Matt Dillon (as mentioned) as the husband supposedly holding Kidman back, Illeana Douglas as Dillon’s all-too-wise sister and Joaquin Phoenix (really quite heartbreaking) as the dumb slacker high school student who falls in love with Kidman and agrees to do her dirty work.

In today’s world fame is easier than ever to attain, usually by taking part in some form of “reality” TV. Anyone and everyone from the Kardashians to “American Idol” contestants can get a foothold in celebrity culture. To Die For, though it is certainly a product of the 1990s, is still relevant in how it shows through biting satire the pernicious effects of wanting face/name recognition at any cost.

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