The Kitchen 2019
It’s the last month of the year and I was able to catch up with the last major theatrical release of this past year. There are still a few other home video and TV movie releases that I haven’t gotten around to, but I should get pretty close before the end of this month and will have a ranked list next month. As for this specific movie, I didn’t hear very much good about this when it was in theaters and while I strongly considered going out to watch it, I just missed it. I thought it was interesting that it was based on a comic and it was about Hell’s Kitchen which is usually associated with Daredevil, though it has absolutely nothing to do with any superheroes at all. Instead, it’s a period drama about the mob featuring comedic actresses. Unfortunately, the trailer featured pretty much all of the comedic bits in the mostly dramatic movie, none of the characters really had any strong personalities to draw me into their stories and by the time things got interesting in the third act, it wasn’t enough to save the film.
It’s difficult to get a real feel for any of the characters until well over halfway through the movie. The movie starts with a super quick introduction to all of the three main women that basically tells us only the most basic and stereotypical information about each of them. Melissa McCarthy’s character Kathy is a mother, Tiffany Haddish’s Rose is a Black woman married to a White man in the 70’s who also has a racist mother that doesn’t like her, and Elisabeth Moss’s Claire is a battered wife. That’s pretty much the extent of what we get to know about these characters before each of their husbands get arrested and sent to jail for three years while the women are all homemakers with no jobs and only one of them has kids.
It’s unfortunate that the trailers seem to undercut the drama with a touch of humor. While the movie isn’t sold as a comedy, there’s enough prominent jokes in the trailer that it feels like it’s trying to be the next Suicide Squad rather than the next Scarface or Goodfellas. There is a lot about the story that’s unclear in the beginning, but it’s never really sold as any sort of mystery. We’re introduced to these women and see their struggle as they rise to power within the family. We’re seemingly supposed to root for their success and worry about their pitfalls. But before long, they get themselves in deep into the criminal element, especially as they go outside of their territory to try and bring in what could be thought of as a big account where a Jewish community is constructing a building but they are in with the Brooklyn mob. The women do some pretty dark things in order to get the Jewish to work with them and it’s difficult to root for them at that point. Not only that, but the turn seems to come out of nowhere and we don’t see much remorse or doubt at this point. It’s not until the reveal in the latter half that Ruby has been working the angles this entire time and has been playing against everyone, but it’s a twist that probably would have worked better had the audience been in on it from the beginning so we could see the workings of her plan rather than have them be revealed past the point where we would care.
It’s also difficult to see this as an overall tragedy where there’s an overall arc with a rise to power and a fall from grace because by the end of the movie, two of the three women are presented as having won, more or less. While they have been working against each other at points, they come to a begrudging alliance in order to head up the start of a powerful mafia empire. This feels like it’s supposed to be a win, but there’s not much time spent on the things that they’ve lost. Especially Claire who actually had the strongest arc of the three characters. She started out as a battered wife with no real personality, but when Domhnall Gleeson shows up out of nowhere to rescue her, she grows into a strong mob enforcer who begins to almost relish the act of killing. But once again, it doesn’t quite go far enough because it has two other characters and plenty of plot to focus on.
What’s most disappointing about this film is that it has a lot of things going for it. While some people might not care for the leads in general, they are all great actors and can handle everything they are given. It’s just that they’re not given the best material and it never comes together in any sort of satisfying way. The comic relief was too minimal for this to feel like a lighthearted action comedy, but it was too awkward for it to feel like a proper release in a straight up drama. The characters were too shallow to really care about their story arcs and the story was too thin to be invested in what’s going on around them. Things just kept happening seemingly out of nowhere with no set up, no foreshadowing, no lasting consequences. Characters died left and right, some of them got funerals, others didn’t. The constant shifting of power should be fascinating to watch, but it’s just handled poorly that it’s difficult to follow what’s going on at times. It’s a shame because there’s a strong concept here, and it’s refreshing especially as it’s a female-centric story in a genre where that is rare. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.