“THE KITCHEN” starring Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, and Melissa McCarthy is coming to theaters this weekend based on the DC Vertigo comic series from Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. This one is written and directed by Andrea Berloff and centers on Hell’s Kitchen in the 70’s, as three wives decide to take over their husbands’ rackets when they are sent to jail for a few years. Admittedly I was excited to see this movie. I think the cast is an appealing mix of personality types, with a ton of potential. I always like to see what a director can do in their first time out, like Berloff did in one. Also, the premise of the story was interesting to me, and with Berloff having wrote the screenplays for both “Blood Father” and “Straight Outta Compton” I was intrigued to see how she would structure a multi-layered time-period crime thriller.
Something I feel she succeeded at because I had a great time with this movie. The story wasn’t perfect, but the direction was polished, the performances were charged, and it had me completely invested. There were some things I would have done differently in terms of the story progression and how it was told. I do think things get up and running a little too quickly early on. There is also a slightly rushed feel later in the film as certain layers and twists revealed themselves. This for me led to a second-act that did have some pacing issues. But as a huge fan of this genre, I felt there was still more than enough substance to grab onto. There was continual progression throughout and none of the time was wasted. I would have simply developed the character arcs with a slightly more natural approach in the first-act. And later in the film I would have started earlier with planting certain seeds to create the curiosity and foreshadowing sooner for the viewer.
Yet, it still was able to capture a trio of compelling characters that each had their own arcs and motivations. They were not the same characters in the end that they were in the beginning. Each of them grew throughout the film which kept the interest up because I think it was easy to connect with them. Their situations are put in front of them, and what lengths someone will go in order to survive is something we can all relate to. I think this makes it easy to put one’s self in their situation. These characters also didn’t snap into full-fledged criminals in an instant. It was a progression that captured fear, remorse, bravery, and determination that was able to effectively humanize them.
CHECK OUT MY VIDEO REVIEW FROM THE SSA YOUTUBE CHANNEL!
This was a major positive because the performances were what made this film the enjoyable time it was. McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss were all perfectly cast. Their chemistry together was just what this story needed and with each having their own backdrops they were able to make the roles their own. McCarthy is trying to take care of her kids. Haddish is trying to gain the power and respect she never had as an Irishman’s wife. Moss is trying to never feel her husband hit her again, and I think all three were able to infuse these roles with the emotional layering and expression needed to sell these dynamics.
It also enabled me to connect with each of them in different ways which in turn naturally elevated the intrigue to where the story would go for them. I also thought it was fantastic to see Haddish in a more dramatic role and I think she thrived in it. Her edge was there, but the comedic over-coating was missing and it was perfect for the need of her character. The same would go for McCarthy who was excellent as well. She has done plenty of non-comedic work in the past, and here again I think she was everything this character could have asked for. And Elisabeth Moss was commanding and capable as always. She was unassuming but impactful, she has a few standout scenes that will leave a lasting impression. And like most of the cast she also delivers a few nicely timed dark moments of levity. I also think Domhnall Gleeson was a stand-out as a smaller character who was so good in this grim, but oddly comical role.
I think a bright spot in Berloff’s script was how she framed up the humor. It wasn’t in the form of jokes or one-liners. But more so in situational responses and various scenarios the story creates that I think was able to weave many charming emotional swings, without ever under cutting the intensity of the main story. Berloff’s direction was also nicely done with a confident eye. This film is unrelenting when the violence kicks in and it captures the true vibe of an organized-crime movie. The violence isn’t excessive in quantity, but when it splashes into the story it does land with impact and I think it was perfect for the needs of the story to capture the gritty tone. So overall, I would call this film a success. It was filled with tension and intrigue. The time-period was nicely captured with solid production, and wardrobe design. As well as a great soundtrack to give this movie atmosphere. McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss shine on their own and they are incredible when all onscreen together, and if you like this genre then I recommend giving this movie a shot.