Women Who Kill sounds like a bad documentary on Netflix…and in some ways it’s meant to sound that way. But I’ll get to that. To start with, the film is genre non-conforming (pun intended): it’s a thriller, but also a comedy; a satire painted with a rainbow-colored indie brush with horror lurking in the shadows. It is, in short, one of the most subversively hilarious lesbian movies I’ve ever seen, and refreshingly unique in a world of ten “Fast and the Furious” movies. Because of the movie’s complexity, reviewers get to sound really smart when describing it, too:
“In her feature film debut, Ingrid Jungerman satirizes the need for meaning and drama in personal interactions while also casting a humorous lens on both Park Slope and the social and political aspects of LGBTQ communities.” –Liam O’Donnell of Cinapse
“A shaggy, banter-driven quasi-thriller in the mode of “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (or the “Thin Man” movies, for that matter), “Women Who Kill” offers a drolly amusing, lightly macabre variation on the standard lesbian romantic comedy.” –Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Jungermann’s whip-smart satire offers a wry snapshot of self-involved New York lesbians that’s both enjoyably smarmy and unsettling in equal doses.”—Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Right, what they said.
Morgan (played by Jungermann, who wrote, stars and directed) is an awkward, introverted Lesbian with a capital L. She drives an old Subaru, wears loafers and large sweaters over a collared shirt, and gets nauseous during moments of emotional intimacy. Uncomfortable in her own skin, relationships, particularly commitment, make her even more uncomfortable. She runs a podcast about female murderers out of the apartment she still shares with her bisexual ex, Jean (Ann Carr).
This popular podcast, the eponymous “Women Who Kill” (doesn’t sound quite as catchy as “Serial”), makes them enough money to be a full-time job and leaves them time to do things like visit imprisoned lesbian serial killers and join the local food co-op in their neighborhood (Park Slope, Brooklyn). The co-op is pretentious and fits every stereotype about co-ops, but it is where Morgan meets the young and Gothic Simone (Sheila Vand).
Simone pursues Morgan aggressively and the two start to date, even though they seem to have nothing in common. Things start to derail, however, when one of the women from the co-op is killed and Jean suggests that Simone might actually be a serial killer they previously profiled on their podcast. A spark of physical jeopardy is introduced that turns Morgan and Jean into bonafide, real-life snoops in their own personal lives, but is Simone really a killer, or is she a misunderstood outsider kept at arm’s length by Park Slope’s privileged culture? Morgan never actually asks, which is just another indicator of the emotional disconnect and self-involved nature of Park Slope’s residents.
Women Who Kill is biting in its mockery of “privileged culture” (kale, co-ops, gentrified neighborhoods, and a healthy dose of self-obsession and neurosis), but it also is like a more subtle version of a Kate McKinnon lesbian skit on “SNL.” Jungermann knows lesbian culture and exactly where to scatter a sly inside joke that will leave queer female audiences guffawing. There is a reason the film won the best screenplay award in the US Narrative Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival.
For all that, it’s a fantastic movie and one very well worth seeing for anyone who enjoys dark comedies, but there is a small disconnect and a bigger, glaring problem. The disconnect comes in the form of the attraction between Morgan and and Simone. What does each see in the other? What draws them and keeps them together despite their vast differences in life experiences? Similarly, what was the attraction between Morgan and Jean, both of whom seem equally washed out by life? Neither sparkle with the vivacity that would keep a relationship alive, which is perhaps why theirs petered out.
More problematic, however, is the ending. Jungermann told The Mary Sue she rewrote the ending because she felt the original ending tied up the loose ends too neatly. While some might enjoy the open-endedness of the new final ending, to me it felt like it went too far the other way and left too many loose ends. Like when you have a delicious dinner at a restaurant and then they tell you there’s no desert menu. You don’t regret the meal, but you wish it had ended just a little differently. Like its protagonist, Women Who Kill needed to be a little more definite.
Women who Kill will be released on demand and DVD/Blu-ray on August 29.