“Not Every Hostage Wants To Be Saved”

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Selma Blair and Max Beesley in Kill Me Later (2001)

For the record, I’m not a big fan of Selma Blair. Well, I never really was until I saw the dark romantic comedy Kill Me Later (2001), which I didn’t see until ten years after is was released. Kill Me Later, directed by Dana Lustig, is not your average romantic comedy. It’s offbeat with quirky characters, and a very intriguing premise.

Shawn Holloway (Selma Blair) is a broken, suicidal girl. She hates her life, her job as a loan officer at a bank, and her boss, Mathew Richmond (D.W. Moffet), who is also her lover despite that fact that he’s married and his wife is pregnant. She decides to kill herself, one morning, by jumping from the roof of the bank she works at. However, a group of petty criminals attempt to rob the bank at the same time. The police arrive, responding to a call about a suicide attempt, and, one of the criminals, Charlie Anders (Max Beesley), panics, runs to the roof, and, takes Shawn hostage just as she’s about to jump. She agrees to help him evade the police if he promises to kill her later.

Blair is fantastic as hopeless Shawn who, according to Charlie, needs “to put some white makeup on and listen to Black Sabbath”. Shawn blames “unbearable emotional suffering” for her despair. Beesley is just as good as Charlie who stays positive despite the fact that he has a daughter he loves who doesn’t know that he’s her father. Both, together, have undeniable chemistry. Obviously, Shawn finds a reason to live in Charlie, and, of course, they end up together, but, this movie, for me, is not about the Hollywood ending – it’s about getting to that ending and learning all about these two, seemingly, lost souls.

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Shawn, in particular, is such a sadly beautiful, tragic character. She and Charlie evade the police, but, Charlie refuses to kill her, thus not honoring his end of the deal. Shawn demands $41,327 of the stolen money instead. She takes the money to her absentee father (Marcel Maillard), and tells him that it’s the total amount of child support, with interest, that he complained about giving to her mother every month after they divorced. Shawn says that, because of him, she, at eleven-years-old, had to take care of her mother. “So I understand why you left her,” she tells him, angrily. “Hell, I wish I could have left her,” she admits, then, wonders: “But, why did you have to leave me?” Her father cares more for his infant child with his new wife than he ever did for her. Heartbreaking.

Charlie, too, has a sad story. He asked his girlfriend, Linda (Sarah Chalke), to wait for him when he went to prison for two years, but, when he got out, he learned that she and his daughter moved on. Charlie walked away for his daughter’s sake. In the end, Charlie finds Shawn on the bridge where she said she’d kill herself if he wouldn’t kill her. “Listen, Shawn, if I decided to turn myself in … would you wait for me?” She thinks, then, smiles: “I’d wait a million years.” It’s trite, but, it works.

My favorite scene, other than the scene where Shawn visits her father, is where Charlie gives Shawn her money, after hours of getting to know each other. “So this is it,” he says, knowing they have to part. Shawn gets out of the car, and, runs. Charlie chases her. “Take me with you,” she begs through tears [he’s going to South America, by the way]. He tells her it won’t work. “Why?” she wonders, sadly. She knows that Charlie is everything she needs, and, she’s not ready to let him go. Two lines – so simple, but, so affecting.

Kill Me Later has plenty of twists (that I didn’t reveal), as well as interesting supporting characters like Charlie‘s dim-witted partner Billy (Brendan Fehr) who’s in love with a prostitute, Heather (Keegan Tracy), who doesn’t love him. Or FBI agents McGinley (O’Neal Compton), who’s nagging wife keeps calling him on his cellphone, and Reed (Lochlyn Munro), who finds suicide interesting because his sister killed herself. Munro, by the way, is an actor I didn’t care much for either until Kill Me Later. The film’s director Dana Lustig also appears in a cameo as Shawn‘s bitchy pregnant stepmother.

Selma Blair, of course, went on to play Liz Sherman, a girl with pyrotechnic abilities, in Hellboy (2004), Guillermo del Toro‘s excellent adaptation of Mike Mignola‘s comic. She reprised her role in del Torro‘s equally awesome sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). But, even still, Kill Me Later is my favorite Selma Blair movie.

The online trailer for this movie sucks, so, instead, watch clips while listening to the excellent song “Fiction” by Yve Adams [which plays at the end of the movie] here:

The lyrics are so perfect for this movie. “Take me with you,” Yve sings [Yve Adam is actually a duo] in the second verse! It’s a good song. And, an insanely addictive country-ish pop/rocker, “Growing Away (My Little Baby)” by [Katie Cook &] Reno, plays over the closing credits.

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