Actress/filmmaker Amber Benson’s second feature “Lovers, Liars and Lunatics” is something of a marvel, a really tight, consistently entertaining and inventive little film that is impressive technically and artistically.
Yes, the story is going to be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen the late Ted Demme’s “The Ref” starring Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis but that is no reason to ignore this film. Benson has assembled a generous ensemble of characters and storylines to throw together into one little manic stew of what can be best described as slapstick black comedy. So, yes, there is a dysfunctional family, a sleazy adulterous husband, a wife determined to get what’s coming to her and two nearly grown sons with enough quirks and kinks between them for their own movies. Throw in a mistress, a wasted teenage girl and a bumbling pair of boy-girl burglars and the result is an engaging, fast paced dark comedy.
While the film is genuinely fun to watch, it is not without some surprisingly poignant moments. Benson has a whole lot to be proud of here because the film really starts and finishes with her both before and behind the camera. As an actress, she delivers a delightful performance in a very juicy supporting part but it is in her role as writer, director and editor where she absolutely shines. Benson the filmmaker expertly navigates territory that has tripped up plenty of other writer/director/editors (for instance, Godfather of Indie Film, John Sayles --- with all due respect), managing to come up with a lean and mean film set, for the most part, in one location. Coming up with a few character/few location production is the first lesson of Indie Filmmaking and it is a very hard lesson to learn but Amber Benson is clearly a filmmaker who is at the head of her class.