Written and Directed by Andrea Berloff
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Emily Moss
Runtime 1 hour, 42 minutes
MPAA Rating R
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“There’s no place for us out there.” - Kathy
I never want to live that mob lyfe.
Mob stories typically provide for an entertaining yarn, but I will always much prefer watching these tales from the outside rather than being “in”. Observing the portrayals of gangsters in many films and TV programs has taught me that the life of a “Tony Soprano” type fella just seems way too high anxiety for me. Although, after watching Andrea Berloff’s The Kitchen, the same could be said for the life of a woman in nineteen seventy eight, Hell’s Kitchen - whether you are living that mob lyfe or not.
The seventies, a time for big hair, polyester and disco. Also not the best time to be a woman either. Hey! I understand today is rather grim too. However, at least I don’t have to walk around in a GD itchy shirt with a nauseating pattern when someone decides to demoralize me at the corner store. It is apparent from the opening scenes, the three women in this flick were not living their best life and this wasn’t just due to the lack of available breathable cotton garments.
Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) was given the life mission to have babies (or as she puts it, wipe asses) and put food on the table. Claire (Elizabeth Moss) is a punching bag and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) is good for one thing, grabbing a brewski… welllll, as long as she walks the extra block to get a Schlitz (insert sigh and eyeroll). After their criminal mobster husbands are sent to jail, they are left for broke and not just in a monetary sense. Their husbands deprived them of a life of their own. The women are left with only one choice: to assimilate into their husbands’ lives and join the mob.
I saw this movie on a Monday night after a long hard day at INSURANCE. Knowing I was seeing this flick after work got me through the typical start of the week, back to work blues. However, I think my hype may have gotten the best of me this time. The Kitchen is based on a twenty fifteen graphic novel and is a directorial debut from Andrea Berloff, who is known for her Oscar nominated screenplay, Straight Outta Compton. I mention this, as I feel there are several moments throughout the movie in which it is apparent this story was based on a comic book and that a novice filmmaker is on display.
Berloff did not make a terrible movie by any means, she made an OK movie that lacks structure and depth. It is by no means a movie that caused me to leave the theater thinking I wasted two hours of my life (unlike this). There were just many moments that I found myself frustrated and fatigued. It is exciting to be living in a time, in which numerous stories are being released in the cinema that have a focus on female empowerment and ladies kickin’ ass, but this screenplay came across as half baked. There were numerous scenes that lacked motivation or backstory to what was being witnessed on screen. It is clear that when the husbands are sent to the clink, the three women are left in a hard spot, no money and no marketable skills, leaving few options. What’s not apparent is how they suddenly take over as mob bosses. This story needed to be told in more than just montages filled with well known seventies top forty.
There is also very little development, except for Moss’ character, Claire. She was the only one that I truly cared about and the only role that experienced change. Her character is first introduced as putting ice on her bruised cheek and later we find her dissecting bodies in a bathtub. Any time her and Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson) were on screen I was paying attention. There is a scene in which Gabriel comes to Claire’s rescue and keeps her from being accosted by a mob boss. Later, this scene is referenced when Claire expresses her displeasure to Gabriel for saving her, because instead of being saved, she wants to be taught how to save herself. I appreciated this moment in the film and felt it showed the character arc within Claire. It showed that she was fed up with the treatment of the past and was taking ownership of her life. She was not going to allow someone to disrespect her. I also enjoyed the body dumping 101 course that Gabriel provided as well. Ya never know when this information could come in handy, just sayin’.
I think this movie was filled with choices and the ultimate decisons that were selected were not the best. I wish the rest of the characters would have been given the character development that Claire had. In the end, I left with the message that the mob makes you a bad person, no matter who you are - man or woman. It was unfortunate to see that these women saw killing as the only method to put themselves first.