The Kitchen (2019)

ANDREA BERLOFF

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBUSA, 2019, , , , Screenplay by , based on the comic book series by , Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by

Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy in The Kitchen

Three women living through the grimy reality of New York’s Irish mob-controlled Hell’s Kitchen in the seventies are struggling to make ends meet after their spouses go to prison. Told by their husbands’ bosses that they will be taken care, they see the paltry funds coming in and decide to do something about it, with Melissa McCarthy leading and as they begin collecting protection money from local businesses themselves, providing better service than their men ever did and eventually making a real bid for authority in the area. Their success gets them in contact with the Italian mob in Brooklyn and their expansion is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand these ladies are feeling so much improvement in their self-worth as individuals who don’t take all their cues from their immature men, Moss especially gains empowerment from taking out the men who cross her path as she does her romance with , but McCarthy’s belief that she can maintain a moral high ground while doing whatever it takes to stay on top of the game eventually leads her to devastating folly. Based on the comic book series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, this film’s terrific setup and strong cast should have made for something if not as legendary as The Godfather or GoodFellas, at least as hypnotizing, but after doing a great job of getting the ball rolling in the beginning, the film fails to live up to its promise. The focus on these women achieving more than was ever expected of them or permitted by their men would be more inspiring if there wasn’t so much on-the-nose dialogue about it (it’s written as if meant for people who have never heard of women), while the plot has few surprises to offer, it sort of plods from one scene to another with little irony, touching on but never delving into the interesting history of American urban centres and the pivotal role that organized crime has played in their development. The period dresses and hairstyles are just a few shades too perfect to look realistic, suggesting that this movie is more emblematic of the period and not as realistic as Donnie Brasco or the HBO series The Deuce, and you get the impression that director Andrea Berloff can’t decide if that’s intentional or not, simultaneously going for realism, fantasy and parody in her approach to this adaptation.  turns in a terrific characterization of a Boston mob matriarch, while is the best of the men as Haddish’s unpredictable husband.

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