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. Ingrid Jungermann’s feature debut as writer-director-star deploys a lot of improv talent for this Brooklyn-set tale of two ex-lovers who host the titular morbidly-themed podcast, and find their insular social circle suddenly invaded by a possible genuine compulsive murderess. Nimbly sustaining the kind of off-kilter, anecdotal humor Jungermann test-drove in several prior shorts and two web series, “Women Who Kill” seems likely to break out of the gay festival-and-niche-home-release ghetto to score some limited arthouse exposure.
Debating topics such as “Who’s the hottest female serial killer” like NPR commentators discussing favorite recycling methods, Park Slope denizens Morgan (Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr) continue to spend nearly all their time together, even though they emphatically deny the relationship retains any romantic element. That changes when the neighborhood food co-op gets a glam, mysterious new member in Simone (Sheila Vand from “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”), who wastes little time before making moves on lanky, neurotic, oddly-Joaquin-Phoenix-resembling (as Jean duly notes) veteran participant Morgan.
This new involvement develops at a heedless pace, to the annoyance of Morgan’s suddenly neglected friends. But just as Simone proposes they move in together, the co-op’s tart-tongued volunteer supervisor (Deborah Rush) suffers an untimely death, and Jean’s snooping reveals that Morgan’s new amour is living under a pseudonym. Worse, she’s the child of a notorious convicted killer who might possibly have gone to prison to cover her daughter’s actual guilt.
This intrigue is really just the hook from which hangs a deadpan insider’s sendup of Brooklyn hipster and lesbian subcultures, one similar to (if less surreal in humor than) Madeleine Olnek’s recent features “The Foxy Merkins” and “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.” The real narrative crux isn’t so much the murder-mystery element but the question of whether Morgan and Jean are going to cave in and reunite as more than BFFs, assuming they survive the flying-wedge impact of femme fatale Simone.
Jungermann and Carr’s well-practiced chemistry is nicely supported by an array of more flamboyant peripheral personalities, the most notable being Shannon Patricia O’Neill and Grace Rex as a more exaggeratedly butch/femme couple experiencing their own reverse crisis (brought on by impending wedlock). Annette O’Toole lends playful electricity to her few scenes as a long-imprisoned lesbian serial murderess who welcomes our heroines’ journalistic interest with a tad too much creepy enthusiasm.
One of those indie comedies in which nearly all the humor is of a sly, throwaway nature, “Women Who Kill’s” air of bemused inconsequentiality is ironically underlined by the expansive feel of Rob Leitzell’s extra-widescreen-format lensing. While its characters do a lot of that dithering familiar to well-educated “alternative” urbanites with too much time on their hands, the film they inhabit is confidently executed on all tech/design levels.