‘The Kitchen’ Theatrical Review
Graphic novels are arguably some of the best yet most under appreciated works of literature. People have turned their heads away from them because they sometimes look and read too much like a comic book. But if one were to take the time to read one, they would see they are works of art that should not be ignored. In fact, graphic novels are sometimes even better than comics for exposing a young reader to a world of imagination and serve as an example to expand their own. Marvel movies have done wonders for comic books in the past 10 years, but graphic novels have had success on the big screen long before that. Road To Perdition is one of my favorite movies. It’s also a great graphic novel by Max Allan Collins who since has written a sequel. When I tell people that the movie is adapted from a graphic novel they are surprised. I didn’t know at first, and I think that there is is something rewarding in that. Because finding out movies such as V For Vendetta and Sin City were graphic novels makes people want to read them, and in turn explore more graphic novels. Snowpiecer and Watchman were not only successful films, but now they are being made into TV shows which are sure to get more fans to read the graphic novels.
The Kitchen was one of the few movies this summer that I had little knowledge about. I only realized Melissa McCarthy was in it after seeing the poster in the email I received for the screening invite. Aside from that, I had no prior knowledge of this film going into the theater except that it’s based off of a DC Vertigo graphic novel by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle about mafia wives who take over the mafia. As a huge fan of mob movies, I was intrigued because this one seemed like something different. Normally, we see women play the role of stay at home wives who hide the money and drugs when their husbands are being pinched. First time director Andrea Berloff has created a mob film that shows that women can do anything just as good as men can. It’s a message this world, a world where the pay gap between men and women is still unfair, could use.
Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) are wives in the Irish mob of Hell’s Kitchen during 1978. They live the typical life expected of them, which is to support their husbands without any question, no matter how bad they are treated. After a botched robbery, the husbands are sent to prison and the three women are left in uncharted waters regarding where their income will come from. Even though their husbands’ boss Little Jackie (Myk Watford) promises that they will be taken care of, the women are given envelopes with money that they feel is a little short. Instead of staying quiet, the women decide to go on their own and start to do what the mob already does, just better. This means going on their word and protecting businesses that pay the mob to do so. What they pretty much become is a mob whose word is gold. Slowly, the three housewives become the Queens of Hell’s Kitchen and it catches the eye of the rest of New York. But with more money comes more problems that will pit the women against those that want to see them fail as well as each other.
With the help of award-winning cinematographer Maryse Alberti, Bererloff captures the feel of one of New York’s toughest areas in the 1970’s. It helps to remind you that the film is a crime thriller, but what’s underneath it is a story about women who struggled to find their place in the world. That part couldn’t be done without the strong performances by the three main leads. McCarthy is known for her comedy, but her best work is in films where that takes a back seat, like St. Vincent, where she proved how much range she has as an actress. Each woman must learn how to be on her own and McCarthy’s Kathy struggles the most because, unlike the other two, she is still in love with her husband. Tiffany Haddish is also known for her comedic roles and, if anything, this is her breakout performance from those types of characters. Playing Ruby, she is given the toughest challenge of the three. Ruby is already frowned upon in the Irish mob because she is black and married in. She has her own personal agenda and her road to the top is much harder because of her race. Haddish has the chops for such a role, and I’d love to see her in any type of film as a stone cold killer. Elizabeth Moss’ character, Claire, shows the most growth as a woman. She goes from timid and shy to someone who takes control once she realizes the world she’s been missing since becoming unchained. There is a scene where one of their hired hands shows them how to cut a person apart, and after watching him cut one leg off Claire asks “Can I do the other one?”
At a period in the movie season full of reboots, it’s nice to see something fresh that shows empowerment for women. I can see some people complaining that there is nothing redeeming about the main characters, but there shouldn’t be. Berloff is no stranger to violence as she was the writer for Straight Outta Compton. These women are part of the mob that involves killing and stealing money. Aside from Henry Hill in Goodfellas you aren’t meant to see these types of characters as people you want to root for.
My main complaint is that the pacing of the movie sometimes feels too fast and, because of that, the intensity I enjoyed at the start wasn’t sustained. Also, the soundtrack sometimes feels like a way to get you excited for a scene but fails and certain songs really don’t fit the setting. I honestly would rather this been a TV Series than a movie, and I’m definitely going to read the graphic novel. All in all, The Kitchen is different from what we are used to seeing. Most important is that it has the chance spark emotions with women in this era who have felt passed over in the workplace. For that, Andrea Berloff has made something that is worth your time.
Adapted from the DC Vertigo graphic novel of the same title, Three housewives of the Irish mob are left to fend for themselves after their husbands go to jail. Unhappy with the money they receive from the mob, the women take it upon themselves by stealing the streets and businesses of Hell’s Kitchen from the mafia.