Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss star as mob wives who clamber for independence in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen after their husbands get locked up.
The Kitchen is a gritty drama that finds strength in its characters and story but loses steam when it comes to pretty much everything else.
McCarthy is Kathy, a daughter and mother who has devoted herself to others. Her marriage to Jimmy (William D’arcy James) isn’t perfect, but before his untimely arrest she would likely describe it positively. Haddish is Ruby, the frustrated wife of Kevin (James Badge Dale). She has a chip on her shoulder and feels like an outsider in “the family” for more reasons than one. Moss completes the trio as Claire, the abused and severely neglected wife of Rob (Jeremy Bobb). It’s easy to sympathize with each woman’s predicament and the development of each is very natural and believable.
However, the idea that these women strong-arm their way into the Irish mob with little actual muscle is far-fetched at best. The acting is fine. I was overjoyed to see Haddish in a film like this playing a “non-funny” role. I think she has some range and while there are moments where she delivers a humorous line, this character is much different than others we’ve seen her portray. McCarthy delivers rich moments as does Moss. All three characters experience some form of growth over the course of the film, but it’s Claire who overcomes the most and becomes the strong-willed person she was probably always meant to be.
Unfortunately, The Kitchen never quite lives up to its potential, which is disappointing. We don’t get nearly as many intimate moments with these characters as I wished. For instance, the relationship between these women isn’t explored enough. Are they friends? Frenemies? It’s left up to the audience to decide. Margo Martindale plays Helen, Ruby’s less than approving mother-in-law, and it’s such a delicious role. Her back and forth with Haddish is fun and could’ve opened up a bigger conversation about interracial marriage and race in the 70’s had the filmmakers chosen to explore their dynamic just a teensy bit more.
I appreciate that the film asserts that the mob isn’t the villain, the violence and crime isn’t the villain, but it’s the male-dominated institution we live in that can do the most damage. I thought that was interesting and a fair perspective for these characters to come away with given their circumstances.
I was briefly reminded of 2018’s Widows, which also featured fiery female characters with slimy ne’er-do-well husbands. That film was dark, well-acted, and very emotionally grounded. It reached more of its potential than Kitchen and the script was better defined. What I find surprising and more troubling is that although the films are set nearly 40 years a part, both sets of characters find themselves in similar situations: trying to pick up the slack of their husbands. That says a mouthful about the plight of women and the realities that many are still faced with.
Overall, The Kitchen is an entertaining film that will certainly hold your attention for an hour and 42 minutes. If you like violent crime dramas with style and humor, you’ll likely enjoy The Kitchen. Be sure to check it out in theaters this Friday!
What’s your favorite crime mob drama? Tell me all about in the comments below!