Photo | BRON Studios
“The Kitchen” stars Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss, and each woman has a few scenes that they are so good in that they manage to transcend some of the more extreme nonsense around them.
Unfortunately, it’s never the same scene, and this story about three mob wives taking the reins after their husbands are imprisoned is uneven, at best. Still, each lady manages to pull something memorable from their character and this flick is not without its lurid pleasures. Logic, however, is not one of them.
OK, subtly is not one of the film’s strength’s either. The film begins and in short order, we learn that McCarthy’s husband is in the mob, but a decent husband and father, Haddish’s husband is bad because he calls her lazy when she presents him with the wrong brand of beer, and Moss’s husband is the worst, as he gets mad at her when she puts ice on her face where he beat her. So these fellows run off to rob a store and get caught and sent to jail for three years.
All the temporarily single ladies brood over how to earn money when the mob bosses are mean and stingy, and after a rather perfunctory attempt to get legitimate jobs, they decide to take over some of their husbands’ employer’s territory by offering what I can only describe as superior customer service.
One of the film’s highlights is the relationship between Domhnall Gleeson and Moss, who were in their own crazy-eyed movie most of the time, in which Gleeson helps Moss uncover her uninhibited, violent side. Moss commits on-screen to whatever she is in, and her somewhat prim appearance has been undercut in recent years by edgy, dark roles in “Her Smell,” Jane Campion’s miniseries “Top of the Lake,” for which I am shoehorning in a recommendation right now because it’s wonderful, and of course “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
This is also an unexpected turn for the mostly comedic McCarthy, whose dramatic work here is easily the most subtle and nuanced aspect of the film. Even when the messaging of the script itself is over-determined — which is all of the time — McCarthy doesn’t get shouty or showy. Meanwhile, Haddish’s character is given all of the film’s sex appeal, and I would have gladly watched an entirely different film about just her character.
The credits reveal that this is based on a comic book, and the credits themselves are in a bold comic book style. Maybe a more unified tone would have served this spotty film; maybe a purely, over-the-top comic book film, or a truly gritty crime film, which seems to be the main look this story was going for. Tonally, there were too many cooks in “The Kitchen.”
McCarthy was going for naturalistic, Moss was achieving “Natural Born Killers” intensity and Haddish was a sultry and assured crime boss. They were all good at their respective roles, but the main unifying element was an overly explanatory script. There was far too great a tendency to explain what they hoped to achieve and why; their lines seemed to follow the five paragraph essay format we learn in middle school.
Plenty of great movies have anti-heroes, and this one has anti-heroines, but this film was more preachy than most, and that hurt its dramatic effectiveness. Sexism is bad, racism is bad, but murder is also bad, and the glass ceiling plaguing organized crime can be a hard thing to care about. However, if you are a fan of any or all of the actresses in “The Kitchen,” or if you just like seeing women beat people up, it’s not an entirely irredeemable excursion.
“The Kitchen” is currently available to rent
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