“Do people always fall in love with things they can’t have?’
‘Always,’ Carol said, smiling, too.”
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.
Ingrid Jungermann: That’s exactly it, I hope people see that aspect. The intention, absolutely is to spotlight that. As a young person, growing up in Florida, in a religious setting – only after years of therapy or a lot of work can you undo the damage of the message that “you’re wrong, who you love is wrong and how you love is wrong.” We experience first-love, full of fear and darkness. All those feelings are mixed up with what should be a wonderful experience. We carry around this self-loathing and internalized homophobia. In that way Women Who Kill is a dark, romantic-comedy that’s specifically queer.