Film, Film Review

REVIEW: The Kitchen (2019) dir. Andrea Berloff


If this were the ’90s, my headline would be something like “The Kitchen is Undercooked”. Unfortunately, that pun doesn’t capture how much of a failure this film truly is. How do you take something so enticing on paper– Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss take over the Irish mob– and turn it into a confusing, goofy slog? The Kitchen is a spectacular failure, and one of the biggest cinematic disappointments I’ve seen so far this year. There will be spoilers in this review, but you shouldn’t be concerned because you shouldn’t see it.

The film, based on the DC/Vertigo comic miniseries of the same name, swiftly introduces our leads: Kathy (McCarthy), Ruby (Haddish), Claire (Moss), and their Irish mobster husbands (Brian d’Arcy James, James Badge Dale, and Jeremy Bobb, respectively). As soon as we meet the men, they are arrested by an FBI agent (Common, who barely registers as a presence) and are sentenced to three years in prison. Without their husbands, the mob wives decide to take the family business into their own hands. What follows are multiple murders, montages of cash, and perpetually on-the-nose soundtrack choices. Kathy, Ruby, and Claire never face a single problem they can’t solve with a bullet, especially when vicious war vet Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson) comes out of nowhere. Seriously, he appears to save Claire from an assault without any set-up. He apparently lived in their neighborhood years earlier, but it was a truly bizarre introduction.

The satisfaction of watching these women kill anyone who gets in their way wears off very quickly, especially when one of the victims is a rabbi who simply… didn’t want to involve himself in their crimes? Margo Martindale is introduced early in the film as Ruby’s nasty mother-in-law, but her character never takes off. She’s set up as a challenger to Ruby’s power, but is soon disposed of. Causing trouble? You’re dead! Hardly anything comes back to bite them, because Gabriel shoots everything in their way. My audience started laughing every time a body ended up in Claire’s tub.

Tiffany Haddish comes out of this looking the best. Melissa McCarthy is ostensibly the lead, but is given nothing to do but look worried. Elisabeth Moss mostly shares screentime with Domhnall Gleeson and glowers. Haddish manages to sell Ruby’s newfound arrogance from her power trip, but the film doesn’t do much with it. It just moves from scene to scene at a breakneck pace, as if the film had been edited down from a much, much longer version.

It’s a shame. On paper, this story sounds like an easy win. But somewhere along the way, the filmmakers lost the thread and produced this muddled mess. I’m sure the lead actresses will knock our socks off again soon, and this film will be quickly forgotten. Do yourself a favor and rent last year’s Widows, the Steve McQueen film that takes a similar premise and completely knocks it out of the park.

The Kitchen
Dir. Andrea Berloff
102 min

Now playing everywhere (though the Hassle recommends the Somerville Theatre, or your local mom & pop cineplex)

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