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Die Mommie Die

Based on a play of the same name by actor/playwright/drag legend Charles Busch, Die Mommie Die is a no-holds-barred, deliciously vamped-up melodrama that sends up the B-movies of Hollywood's heyday (including classics Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Sunset Boulevard) while casting itself among them. Busch plays cantankerous, hotheaded singer Angela Arden, a big star whose twinkle has long faded but whose wardrobe has not. After years of enduring her insufferable manager/husband, Sol (Philip Baker Hall), she adopts a well-hung lover, Tony (a terrific Jason Priestly), to make her feel young again. As if her family wasn't dysfunctional already, Tony's entrance really stirs things up. After Sol keels over one day, the sex-magnet son (a brooding Stark Sand) and "daddy's girl" daughter (spiteful spitfire Natasha Lyonne) suspect mommy dearest and plan their revenge. The plot thickens, however, when Tony secretly seduces both of them. So whose side is he on? With its harsh lighting, bright colors, thriller score, and rear-projected backgrounds, Die Mommie Die has just the right throwback feel of a film mocking mid-century Hollywood. Ironically, the weakest link may be Busch himself. His Angela simply doesn't look aged enough to play the part of the withered has-been, and his one-note performance only makes the supporting cast stand out that much more. It's not surprising that Die Mommie Die was a crowd-pleaser at this year's San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which attracts a niche audience already conversant in drag and camp. But it'll probably stump everyone else.