It’s almost shocking how lifeless, bland, and even pointless this comic book adaptation’s dialogue is, only matched by its lazy, anemic plot twist.
I was excited about The Kitchen, which is the directorial debut from the writer of Straight Outta Compton Andrea Berloff. Here is a movie that’s intended mentality is very current, about a group of three strong-minded women who make their place in the world by taking over the “protection” racket in the middle of a hot summer in the late 1970s Hell’s Kitchen. Then, 30-minutes in, I was taken back at how shockingly lifeless, bland, and even pointless the dialogue that was being spewed by these three gifted actresses is, which sadly was only matched by its lazy, anemic plot twist. This film has no set tone, no identity, and not even a spec of real grit; at least they got the hair right.
The Kitchen is not based on a true story, which has been a common misconception I’ve seen made on social media. It’s actually an adaptation of a comic book miniseries from DC Vertigo, a division of DC comics. You have Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) who loves her husband dearly (played by Spotlight‘s Jimmy D’arcy James) and has two kids at home. Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) is married to the head of an Irish crime family, Kevin (James Badge Dale), who thinks marrying her in a mixed marriage in his family is like a badge of honor. Lastly, you have Claire, who is physically and emotionally abused by her husband Robb (Russian Doll‘s Jeremy Bobb), and lost their child because of it. One night, all three losers get caught robbing a convenience store and go away for 3-years for the robbery and assault of two FBI agents. This is the set up for them to take matters into their own hands when the money paid to them by their husband’s bosses isn’t even enough to pay the rent.
I can’t stress to you how utterly bad this film’s script really is. The plotting and dialogue are almost offensively lazy. So much so, I wanted to start a Go Fund Me page for the
victims paying viewers of this film so they can get their money back. The film’s cast seems fine, even impressive on paper, but two-thirds of the leads have trouble carrying the film (or is it the script they have trouble taking responsibility for?). While McCarthy is perfectly acceptable as a woman who is torn between her new gig and her motherly ways, it is essentially a stereotype that should have been abandoned (or at least at some point during the film), considering what the underlining point behind her character’s motivation is. The Haddish role at least conforms to being a cold businesswoman, but she is miscast here and doesn’t have the dramatic chops yet, which can come in time but were demanded of the role. The one silver lining here is Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss, whose arc of a beaten wife rising from the ashes performance is never allowed to truly set the tone of the film, in which this was sorely needed.
The Kitchen is a massive disappointment, despite having had hit written all over it. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the writer and director Berloff, whose voice has mysteriously left her here. You might think I’m being too hard on the film, but I’d rather have over the top cheesy, melodramatic banter, that could be maybe fun or at least understandable. You are instead though exposed to a ridiculous, out of left field plot turn that will have you looking back at the film and ask yourself how this really could have happened considering what the characters had to allow to happen in order to pull it off. The film is so clueless it actually shows you flashbacks to justify it, yet doesn’t realize how these moronic, puzzling character decisions, and the mind-numbing dialogue that is supposed to give you that “Ah-hah” moment, instead induce multiple convulsing eye-rolls. The makers of The Kitchen, like its characters, lack a great amount of self-awareness.