Die Mommie Die!

on October 31, 2003 by Annlee Ellingson
In the wake of last year's critically acclaimed “Far From Heaven” comes “Die Momie Die,” another homage to the melodramas of the ‘50s and ‘60s. But instead of a nuanced performance by Julianne Moore, “Die Mommie Die” features an equally accomplished, if burlesque, turn by a drag queen, and rather than making a sensitive ode to a filmmaking style of a bygone era, it sends it up.

Retired pop singer Angela Arden's (Charles Busch) tryst with out-of-work TV actor Tony Parker (Jason Priestly) is cut short when her movie producer husband Sol Sussman (Philip Baker Hall) returns earlier than expected from a business trip to Europe. Weary of their hateful marriage and determined to resurrect her career, she concocts a scheme to poison him with arsenic and a suppository. Her daddy's-girl daughter alleges foul play and convinces her mama's-boy brother to help trick her into telling the truth--but Angela ultimately reveals far more than they ever suspected.

Characterized by the filmmaking techniques of the era it is emulating, director Mark Rucker employs soft focus, blue screens and black-and-white flashbacks to amusing effect. Busch's script, based on his stage play, is quippy, saturated with such dramatic lines of dialogue as “Pictures that made even a hard-boiled gumshoe reach for the Pepto-Bismol!” and “You can't discard me like one of your false eyelashes!” and silly plot points such as the conventional blood dripping from a body in the ceiling--only this one's hanging bloodless from a noose.

But the film's greatest asset is Busch himself in a performance so finely tuned that ultimately one almost forgets he's not the glamorous woman with the ritzy wardrobe that he's portraying--except for the fact that that's the funniest part. The film wouldn't work without him in the role. Starring Charles Busch, Frances Conroy, Philip Baker Hall, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Priestley and Stark Sands. Directed by Mark Rucker. Written by Charles Busch. Produced by Dante Di Loreto, Anthony Edwards and Bill Kenwright. No distributor set. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 90 min.

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