Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: Andrea Berloff
There are many ways to describe the overall quality of The Kitchen, but the easiest way would be to call it the best bad movie of 2019. Conceptually, everything about this movie should allow it to succeed both financially and critically. An interesting concept, a stacked cast, and a directorial debut from someone who’s written award-winning scripts, what could possibly go wrong? Well, that last point really is what does the film in. Too complex and unorganized for its own good, The Kitchen takes a movie that I would want to see succeed and turns it into 103 minutes of messy mob cliches.
The movie follows Kathy Brennan (McCarthy), Ruby O’Carroll (Haddish), and Claire Walsh (Moss), three mob wives whose husbands have been arrested and sent away to jail leaving them without a source of income. When the money the mob gives them isn’t enough to survive, the women take matters into their own hands and get involved in the world that incarcerated their husbands. With these new opportunities come a level of danger and risk these three were unaccustomed to and only their wit and determination can keep them out of harm’s way. The one thing the film does very well is it gets the most out of its three leading ladies. While we’ve seen McCarthy and Moss in more dramatic roles throughout their careers, it was a pleasant surprise seeing Haddish move away from her traditionally comedic background and thriving in a more intense role. Even as an ensemble, Haddish carries the second half of the movie and helps us get to end through her vision and tenacity. This trio cements themselves early on as being able to handle any script that a writer could come up with and provide the necessary emotion that each scene required. These three are never the problem, but the film completely falls apart thanks to a script that can only be described as bizarre. Crucial plot points happen without any sort of lead up or forewarning and it doesn’t come across as shocking, just flat out confusing. Not only that, but the turning points that each character has during the movie is largely unspecified and left up to the viewers to figure out we got to each point. Claire’s story is the only one that makes sense from start to finish, but Kathy and Ruby make multiple questionable decisions during the film that are not thoroughly explained. When they are, they are told to us through dialogue instead of showing us why these characters are feeling the way they are. It’s a shame, because on paper The Kitchen has everything needed to make a successful gangster movie from a unique perspective. Unfortunately, it seems like Berloff’s directorial debut missed the mark and gives her one the first flops of her career. I’m sure she’ll bounce back in future projects, but for what we got here, The Kitchen fails deliver upon any sort of potential and promise that viewers were expecting.
Overall, there are very few gangster movies about the women of the mob, and even fewer are lead by an Academy-Award nominated actress and have one of the brightest up-and-coming writers in the business, so maybe Berloff should’ve stuck to writing this time around and let someone more experienced direct this project. When I first saw the promotional materials for this movie, I was genuinely excited just because we haven’t seen something like this in a while, but all my hopes were dashed when I actually saw the final product. Everyone involved in this movie has done more successful projects during their career, but for some reason that success couldn’t carry over and make The Kitchen anything than an underwhelming summer bomb.
Overall Score: 3.5/10