Josh Bell

If you saw Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven and thought, This movie would be much better if it starred a man in a dress, then you'll probably love Die Mommie Die!, Mark Rucker's adaptation of the Charles Busch play that, like Far From Heaven, takes on the cinematic melodramas of the 1950s and '60s. Instead of Julianne Moore as the embattled woman overcoming the pressures of society, you've got playwright Busch himself as washed-up singing star Angela Arden, stuck in a loveless marriage to Hollywood producer Sol P. Sussman (Philip Baker Hall), having an affair with gigolo-tennis pro Tony Parker (Jason Priestley), and stuck with a daughter (Natasha Lyonne) who hates her and a son (Stark Sands) who's a few sandwiches shy of a picnic.

Angela offs her hubby, but that only complicates matters further as secrets are revealed, plots hatched, and everyone behaves pretty much like they're in a 1950s melodrama. That is, of course, the point, and God help you if you don't get it, because sitting through 90 minutes of this stuff without playing Spot The Film Reference is damn-near excruciating.

While Haynes mined this same material to great dramatic effect in Far From Heaven, Busch takes the opposite route, going for over-the-top camp, and it gets tiresome incredibly quickly. Sure, it's sort of funny to see a man with obvious stubble being treated with the same soft-focus lighting and high-fashion costumes you might have seen on Doris Day or Lana Turner once upon a time, but a man in a dress does not a satire make.

The humor, full of sexual innuendoes, is broad and not terribly funny, and the performances are so mannered that they lose all meaning. By the end, the jokes are lost in the face of the convoluted plot, typical of the melodramas the film spoofs, as if Busch and Rucker actually expect the audience to take the film seriously as a thriller.

Maybe this all worked on stage, and it's worth noting that the actors sell their roles as best they can, including Busch as the uber-diva, but this is such a smug, self-satisfied film that it will leave a bad taste in your mouth, whether you're a fan of old melodramas or not.

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