Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Thursday, 10/16/2003, 7:30 PM Feature presentation, $15 at Lincoln Theatre
THERE’S A VERY good reason Charles Busch won the special jury prize for outstanding performance at last year’s Sundance film festival: His portrayal of faded pop star Angela Arden is, simply put, extraordinary, sensational, OUT OF THIS WORLD!
And Die Mommie Die!, a spectacularly funny, wickedly entertaining screen adaptation of Busch’s off-Broadway play, is the most unabashedly uproarious film Reel Affirmations has ever had the good fortune to snag for an opening night.
Die Mommie Die! is quintessential Busch — a tawdry, smutty, slutty lampoon of 50s and 60s movies played out with an arch earnestness. Busch plays Angela with a blend of haughty finesse and forthright conviction. A vision of elegance, shot with glamour lighting and Vaseline-slathered lenses, the character is at once over-the-top and entirely convincing, reaching beyond a simple drag performance and into the realm of genuine, far-reaching characterization. Busch is a master at making already funny lines like “Perhaps something did happen that summer — one feels the memory lingering like smog over the canyon” side-splittingly hilarious.
The story, as it were, finds Angela scheming to murder her controlling and chronic-constipation suffering husband (“Nobody ever said it was going to be easy being an old Jew,” he grumbles), who owns her “like I own every damn toilet in the house!” How she eventually murders him is one of the film’s truly inspired moments.
Angela’s lack of grief (she gets soused at the funeral and launches into an inappropriate string of upbeat pop ditties) arouses suspicion in the pair’s children — malicious, vicious Edith (Natasha Lyonne) and swinging homo-hipster Lance (aptly named newcomer Stark Sands), who eyes his mother’s latest paramour, gigolo Tony Parker (Jason Priestly), with an insatiable predatory hunger (“Buster, you better haul out that bratwurst and spread some mustard on it,” he says, virtually drooling).
The cast couldn’t be better. Lyonne and Sands nimbly match the veteran Busch note for comic note and Six Feet Under‘s Frances Conroy is stunning as the household’s repressed, Bible-quoting Southern biscuit of a maid. Priestly comes off a little flat, unfortunately, but the sight of the former Beverly Hills 90201 star deep-kissing Busch and later Sand makes up for his overly-starched line-readings.
Busch’s screenplay abounds with double entendres and some outright shocking declarations. And, for good measure, he throws in a deliriously funny LSD trip. Photographed in sumptuous, glowing pastels by Kelly Evans and directed with agility and fine comic nuance by first-timer Mark Rucker, Die Mommie Die! isn’t just high camp — it’s astronomical camp.
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