Some of the greatest movies of all time revolve around the life of the mafia. The Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas are the two big ones that primarily dominate any conversations concerning the subject matter. But with any genre, there are also bad movies that will always stick with you, as shown last year with the John Travolta misfire Gotti. What I believe is the ultimate sin, however, is making an unmemorable movie. One that you pay good money to see in a theater but ultimately forget about it in a week or so. Unfortunately, The Kitchen falls into that third category.
Based on a series of comics published by Vertigo, the crime drama follows three women in Hell’s Kitchen circa 1978. The women are faced with a crisis when their criminal husbands are sent to jail following a robbery gone bad. The three women, played by Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss, work their way up the ranks to be like their criminal husbands and eventually become some of the most powerful people in the Kitchen.
Throughout the movie, I was constantly thinking about the movie Widows that was released just last year. Widows also followed the lives of a group of women following a robbery gone wrong, and was one of my favorites of 2018. That movie featured a rich premise, a great cast and interesting political subtext. Meanwhile, The Kitchen comes off as just another movie where women want to take charge in a male dominated field. There’s nothing wrong with those stories, but it has to be good in order to get the message across. This movie isn’t it and sadly joins some of the other misfires that try to sneak in a message about empowering women. I’ll keep holding out for that great movie about women, maybe this year’s Oscar season could give us something good.
The movie was written and directed by Andrea Berloff, who was also one of the writers for Straight Outta Compton. It’s her first time in the director’s chair and it shows. A lot of the shots in the movie feel uninspired or lifted from better New York crime movies. The editing is also all over the place. Some scenes feel like they’ve been trimmed down and ultimately feel underdeveloped, opting instead to plug a song from the mid/late 70s in an attempt to enhance the film. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
The best thing The Kitchen has going for it is its cast. Melissa McCarthy has shown that she can pull off a serious role with last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me, and here she makes the most of her otherwise underwritten character. Elisabeth Moss has a little more development than McCarthy, playing an abused wife who chooses to make the most of being away from her abusive spouse. The surprise for me was Tiffany Haddish in what I believe to be her first serious role. I’ve never really been a fan of her in comedies, but here she shows that she can be a bad ass if she wants to be. Whether or not this film is successful, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her outside of the usual dumb comedies she does. A supporting cast that includes Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Martindale and Common also does their best with what little they’re given.
The Kitchen adds very little to the crime genre outside of changing the perspective to that of a female. It’s a shame that some solid performances are wasted on a premise that, as mentioned before, was done much better just last year. Even the ending is underwhelming, setting up a big confrontation but being resolved in nothing more than a two minute conversation. And that’s what this movie felt like: rushed. It needed a few more rewrites and maybe a run time longer than 100 minutes.