Step 1. Take a comic where men get sidelined so women step up and outshine them.
Step 2: Add an Oscar-nominated writer to shape and direct the story.
Step 3: Mix with the acting prowess and star power of three leading actresses.
Step 4: Top with smooth 70s grooves, classy costumes and authentic set designs.
Step 5: Serve to audiences hungry for anything other than sequels and reboots.
It should’ve been a recipe for success. Especially during a time where audiences are primed for fresh female content, but somehow The Kitchen fails to rise.
Co-screen-writer of Straight Outta Compton, Andrea Berloff, has written and directed this action mob-movie based on the DC Vertigo comic book series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle.
Set in the late seventies, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss play three (mostly mistreated) wives whose Irish-mob husbands are thrown in jail for armed robbery for three years. When the leader of the mob gives them chump change to survive on, these smart women quickly realise they might be able to beat the boys at their own game and start having people pay them for protection instead.
This is all rapidly set up, and while the film’s pacing is solid, it’s tone and intended message are never clearly established.
The Kitchen never seems sure whether it wants to be a dark comedy or not. It gets the occasional smirk but mostly the humour comes across as an afterthought. On the whole, it’s serious and Haddish, in particular, doesn’t seem to know how (or receive adequate direction) to play this role, which is far from her comfort zone.
McCarthy and Moss give strong performances but they’re limited by the fact that their characters are so thinly drawn and that the script is full of some pretty stilted dialogue.
The best chemistry in the film is actually between Moss’ character and a psychopathic enforcer played by Domnhall Gleeson but their on-screen time together occupies only a fraction of the film.
The Kitchen wrestles with themes of gender and power and throwing mafia activity into the mix complicates things in a way the story just can’t handle. The film, for example, depicts the husbands and their mafia mates as terrible people, but when they’re ousted by the women it switches gear. The women are portrayed as though they should be lauded, or at least liked, despite behaving more deplorable than the men did only moments ago.
The Kitchen isn’t funny enough to be entertaining and isn’t poignant enough to make any other kind of impact. The result is a confusing and unsatisfying concoction and an unfortunate waste of some quality ingredients.
SEE IT if…
You like the Netflix series Good Girls
You can’t picture Bill Weasley as a deadly enforcer
SKIP IT if…
You’re hoping for laughs similar to The Heat or Spy
You thought this was a cooking show
It gets 2.5 stars out of 5.
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