Die Mommie Die

Fallen pop diva Angela Arden (Charles Busch) was once a world-famous songstress, the queen of Hollywood, the woman every man wanted — then she lost her ability hit the high notes and fell abruptly from fame. Her vicious husband Sol (Philip Baker Hall) is a washed-up film producer, their bitchy vamp of a daughter (always-wonderful Natasha Lyonne) has a distinctly suspect relationship with Daddy, and their none-too-bright son (Stark Sands) is a rampant boy-toy… for boys. So when Angela's affair with an out-of-work, sexually-ambiguous, b-list TV actor (Jason Priestley) is discovered, vicious Sol decides to clamp down on her lifestyle — no singing, no allowance, no way out baby. But free-as-a-nightingale Angela Arden is not a woman to be held prisoner, even if it means murder…

Die Mommie Die! is, quite simply, a hoot. It's low on taste and high on laughs — like the best of John Waters' heyday. The intentionally-overwrought histrionics and larger-than-life double-crossings make for a hysterical ode to the Ross Hunter-style Technicolor suspense melodramas of the 50's and 60's; it's a kooky cousin of Far From Heaven. Veteran theater director Mark Rucker does a superb job of re-creating the look and feel of a bygone cinematic era — down to driving scenes with absurdly obvious rear-screen projections (the genuine 1960s article from the Warner Bros. vaults). And Busch is amazing in his gender-bending performance as Angela, glamorously and hilariously recalling the indomitable heroines played by the likes of Davis, Crawford, Turner, and Hayward.

But it's a meddlesome, pious, proverb-spewing maid called Bootsie Carp (fantastic Frances Conroy, the mom from Six Feet Under) who really brings down the house with gorgeously cornball dialogue like: "As catsup is to meatloaf, so sorrow is a condiment to joy!" And when she discovers Angela's misdeeds, the resulting confrontation is classic, bitchy camp, and there's not a drop of sorrow (or catsup, for that matter) to be found in this marvelously crafted entertainment.

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