‘The Kitchen’ Review: Where These Women Belong

Before you get all self-righteous about the title of this review, know that The Kitchen is about three women, played by Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, and Tiffany Haddish, who take over their husbands’ crime businesses after the men get arrested, and begin to run 1978’s Hell’s Kitchen with the same tenacity and fervor as any man could — if not more.

The Kitchen is based off the DC/Vertigo comic series, and the story takes the three women on a violent, cut-throat journey of self-discovery that is meant to thrill audiences. McCarthy plays Kathy, a mother of two kids and the wife of Jimmy Brennan (Brian d’Arcy James). When Jimmy and his partners, Kevin O’Carroll (James Badges Dale) and Rob Walsh (Jeremy Bobb) are nabbed by the FBI during a botched robbery, they are sentenced to three years in prison, leaving Kathy and her fellow Irish Mob wives Claire Walsh (Moss) and Ruby O’Carroll (Haddish) alone with no income — legit or otherwise.

When the husbands are away...

Kevin’s family, including his mother, played by Margo Martindale, and brother, Little Jackie, played by Myk Watford, run a racketeering ring in The Kitchen, and they offer to “take care” of the three women, but when it comes time to pay, the envelopes are a little light, so the women band together and begin their own racket, drawing the ire of the O’Carroll’s, the Jews, and the Italians in Brooklyn. Even under all the threats, the women persevere and thrive — until their husbands get out of prison, and then all hell breaks loose in The Kitchen.

The story is not the problem with The Kitchen, nor is it the stellar cast. Flaws begin to show immediately with the direction of Andrea Berloff (writer of Straight Outta Compton). In her first directorial effort, it feels like the project is bigger than she can handle, and the myriad plot lines begin to spin out of control.

...The women will play

Berloff, who also wrote the screenplay, cannot keep the tone consistent through the film. It also doesn’t help that there are some odd edits, as certain scenes do not mesh with the scenes before and after, making The Kitchen seem like a patchwork, rushed project. And these editing issues occurs multiple times in the second and third acts. These types of edits were used in the films of the 1970s — which is the time period The Kitchen is set in — but I’m not convinced this was done intentionally and it dragged me out of the film in multiple places.

The biggest dram in The Kitchen is in the performances. McCarthy proves once again that she can drive a drama, and Moss and Haddish both shine in supporting roles. These women are fierce and take control quickly and with the right touch. When the inevitable cracks begin to form between the trio, each actress nails the fracturing and I was sold on it.

Kathy lays down the rules in The Kitchen

The real surprise here is Domhnall Gleeson, who plays neighborhood muscle Gabriel O’Malley. Gabriel also serves a love interest to Moss’s Claire, but it’s Gleeson’s chameleon-like performance that carried the film for me. I’ve watched this young actor in a great many films, and each role he plays is so different and he continues to nail it each and every time.

His violent mentoring of the women in The Kitchen is the best part of the film, hands down, and when the story begins to unravel, both in plot and execution, Gleeson and his performance remains the one constant holding it all together.

Gabriel serves as a mentor and muscle to the women

The Kitchen is a film teetering between good performances and bad directing, with the story serving as the fulcrum tipping each side. I wanted to love this film, but it never came together for me, and by the time the house lights came up, I was ready to leave late-’70s New York and the polyester and big hair and not look back. This could have been a movie that sticks with you, and the women serving as leads were more than capable of delivering that experience. Unfortunately, as a whole, The Kitchen might be better off being closed.

The Kitchen is rated R and is in theaters on August 9.

The Kitchen opens this weekend
out of 5

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