DIR: Andrea Berloff • WRI: Andrea Berloff • DOP: Maryse Alberti • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Shane Valentino • PRO: Michael De Luca, Marcus Viscidi • MUS: Bryce Dessner • CAST: Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Domhnall Gleeson
(Contains minimal spoilers)
Adapted from a DC Comic of the same name, The Kitchen tells the story of three women in 1970s New York who take over the Irish Mafia while their husbands are in prison. Before the husbands are locked up, we see Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) helping her kids do homework, Claire (Elisabeth Moss) getting punched by her husband, and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) being yelled at for buying the wrong beer. When they start to run out of money, they have to earn the respect of the neighbourhood in a system that only views women as wives and mothers. With all the elements of a gangster flick, The Kitchen is about creating a space for yourself in a man’s world.
A film you think will be about strong women running the Irish Mafia is undermined by one character’s need to be rescued. When Claire’s abusive husband is sentenced to prison, she smiles knowing she won’t be attacked for at least two years. With no employable skills “besides getting hit” Claire starts volunteering at a soup kitchen where she gets attacked and ends up in hospital. A short time later, she is sexually assaulted while taking out the bins, only to be saved by a new love interest, Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson).
After this, Claire exacts revenge on her attacker and gains confidence in herself. It’s hard to know whether she has finally found her voice or has adapted to what her new boyfriend expects from her. Writer/director Andrea Berloff leans on the damsel in distress trope, where Claire is saved from the evils of New York City by a man, and not by her female friends. I left the film asking myself if Moss’ character really needed to be broken down in order for her to be built back up again?
Berloff’s work highlights undervalued members of society (Straight Outta Compton) and their fight for respect as they try to achieve their goals. The domesticated leads are tired of being treated as wives and mothers, and not as fully-fledged human beings with dreams and aspirations. The characters create an indispensable role for themselves in the Irish Mafia, giving them a purpose outside the home.
McCarthy, Haddish and Moss deliver great performances in a forgettable film. A rough reworking of the gangster film, The Kitchen shines a light on the characters who usually only exist in the background.
16 (see IFCO for details)
The Kitchen is released 20th September 2019