January 22, 2011

Queer Review: Die, Mommie, Die!

Die, Mommie, Die! (2003)
Director: Mark Rucker
Writer: Charles Busch, based on his play of the same title.
Main Cast: Charles Busch, Jason Priestley, Natasha Lyonne, Frances Conroy, Stark Sands, Philip Baker Hall

Charles Busch the creator and star of Die, Mommie, die! is a male actor who frequently plays female characters in films. In Die, Mommie, Die! Busch gently parodies 60's films and particularly 60's Hollywood kitschy style.

The plot of Die, Mommie, Die! appears to have borrowed many of it's elements from the Greek tragedy Electra written by Sophocles and Euripides. Although, Die, Mommie, Die! is first and foremost a comedy, the dysfunctional family it depicts is filled to the brim with deep undercurrents of legitimate pathos.

When Sol Sussman (Philip Baker Hall) becomes too overbearing, his wife Angela Arden (Charles Busch) plots his murder. Angela was once a famous singer, but the untimely death of her sister Barbara Arden has left her with unexplained and unresolved guilt, plus the equally mysterious loss of her singing voice. However, it isn't long before Angela succeeds in poisoning Sol by lacing the suppository his doctor had prescribed with arsenic. While the autopsy clears her name (no arsenic was found in Sol's stomach after all), their kids - Edith (Natasha Lyonne) and Lance (Stark Sands) - believing that their mother was guilty in Sol's death, plot revenge. Meanwhile, Tony Parker (Jason Priestley) the films femme fatale, and who was also having an affair with Angela before Sol's death, begins an unorthodox investigation into the Sussman family.

The movie breezes by at a pleasant enough pace and the script was written with just enough intelligence to keep the audience guessing as to what is really going on. The film has a couple of surprises in store for viewers by the end, and I have to admit that I was only able to guess at a few of them beforehand.

Each of the primary actors is able to fill their role in the movie well, with Charles Busch and Jason Priestley providing standout performances. Director Mark Rucker manages to provide plenty of homages to classic movies in order to gently send them up; I was particularly reminded at times of Sunset Boulevard.

At the end of the day, while not a great film - I like my comedies to be a bit more bold - I would hope Die, Mommie, Die! does not give into it's title's plea, but rather I would wish for it to live a long and happy life in the annals of cinema.

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