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The Kitchen (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

The Kitchen


Starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge Dale, Brian d’Arcy James, Margo Martindale, Common, Bill Camp, Jeremy Bobb, Alicia Coppola, E.J. Bonilla, James Ciccone, John Sharian, Stephen Singer, Myk Watford, Brandon Uranowitz and Annabella Sciorra.

Screenplay by Andrea Berloff.

Directed by Andrea Berloff.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. 102 minutes. Rated R.

More and more it is looking like women are getting better at running things than men – more empathetic, fairer, more willing to compromise, more interested in keeping everyone satisfied than standing on the bottom line. So, why not the mob?

That is the story of The Kitchen – based on a comic book series I had never heard of – about three women who have to take care of themselves when their low-level mobster husbands go to jail on a robbery gone wrong. They end up taking over the local rackets, and somehow make them work much better for the residents of Hell’s Kitchen.

I’d say it is not a coincidence that it is being released to theaters on National Women’s Day.

Last winter, when we spoke with McCarthy about her soon-to-be Oscar nominated role in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, she previewed this film, which she was currently working on. “The Kitchen. [Written and directed by] Andrea Perloff. New York City, 1970s Hell’s Kitchen. Tiffany Haddish, myself, and Elisabeth Moss play three – two wives, one girlfriend – of Irish mobsters that get put in jail. Then we can’t sustain ourselves. They’re not giving us our cut. So, we take over the mob and become much more violent and more successful than our husbands were.

“It’s brutal,” McCarthy continued. “It’s definitely a drama. It’s a straight-up gangster movie. I love it. It’s Andrea’s first time directing, which was really exciting. She’s awesome.”

Yes, The Kitchen is not only showing its female perspective on the screen, it is also behind the scenes. Three female leads. A female writer/director. A crew with quite a few women on board, including the cinematographer.

And, wouldn’t you know it? The Kitchen is one of the better gangster movies I’ve seen in a while. Now, in full disclosure, I’m not a huge gangster movie fan. But I mostly liked The Kitchen.

It sort of reminded me of some of the things that are on HBO – most specifically, the underrated series The Deuce, which shares an era and a basic locale with The Kitchen – the mean streets of 1970s Manhattan. The Kitchen’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood is only a couple of blocks away from The Deuce’s Times Square locale. Though, The Deuce takes place in the early 70s, while The Kitchen is in the late 70s.

Of course, the film it is being most compared to is last year’s Widows, which does have an extremely similar storyline. I haven’t seen Widows, so I can’t really comment on that, though the basic consensus I’ve been picking up seems to be that Widows may have told the story a little better.

Kathy Brennan (McCarthy), Ruby O’Carroll (Haddish) and Claire Walsh (Moss) are the wives (and girlfriend) here, who see that the mob is running their neighborhood in a very slipshod manner and decide to pick up the slack. Besides, though the mob promised their men that their families would be cared for, the money they are being paid don’t even come close to paying the rent.

All are different types. Kathy is a doting wife and mother and definitely the most centered of the trio. Claire is a quiet type who has been beaten all her life, from her father to her boyfriend. Once she finds a little power, mostly through a handsome hit man (Domhnall Gleeson), she becomes fascinated with the violence. Ruby is the most volatile – a black woman in a white man’s world, she looks after herself first and foremost.

I should note that for a film which co-stars two comic actresses (McCarthy and Haddish), The Kitchen is not a comic film, only rarely peppering in some jokes and comedy beats. Also, as it goes on, the film does start to get rather violent.

However, you can expect nothing else from a gangster movie. And while The Kitchen isn’t perfect, it has the moves down pretty well.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 9, 2019.

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