Film Review: The Kitchen

Frances Winston reviews this female-led crime drama

Directed by: Andrea Berloff – Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge Dale, Brian d’Arcy James, Margo Martindale, Common, Bill Camp

Set in the late 70s, this female-led crime thriller sees three women take over their mobster husbands’ protection racket, in order to survive when they go to jail. However, this puts the patriarchal hierarchy’s noses out of joint, and they find that their lives as well as their new livelihood is in danger.

This features a sterling cast, and it is fabulous to see another female-led drama hit the big-screens. Unfortunately, the clichéd and sagging story doesn’t do them justice. Every character is a caricature. It treads similar ground to Widows, but struggles far more in its execution.

The cast do the best they can with a clunky script, but Haddish is completely wasted, and by the end of the movie seems to be channelling a Blaxploitation heroine.

It’s nice to see Moss released from the constraints of her Handmaid’s Tale role, and she acquits herself here, although her character is woefully underwritten. Meanwhile, McCarthy is great, but again is let down by the insipid writing.

Indeed, the only character that seems somewhat fully formed and well-written is that of supporting cast member, Margo Martindale who completely shines as a mob matriarch. To be fair, the male characters don’t fare any better, and are all taken straight from a 1930s gangster movie.

The story gets weighed down in clunky politics, and doesn’t always seem to know if it wants to be a crime drama or a story about family and friendship. As such, it feels a bit jumbled. The pacing also feels at odds with what should be a high-tension and gripping story.

There are a few positives. The costumes and set design capture the era perfectly, and there is some fabulous cinematography. Berloff manages to instil the sense of claustrophobia that is often felt by people in such tight-knit communities and compromising situations.

This isn’t enough to save this though, and while it has some nice moments, I found it difficult to remain engaged throughout. I would love to be heaping praise on a female-centric movie, but in this case what’s seldom isn’t wonderful, and I imagine only fans of the cast will find anything to interest them here.

In Cinemas September 20th!

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