Movie Review

The Kitchen serves up undercooked story and hammy acting

The Kitchen serves up undercooked story and hammy acting

If you're not plugged into the movie industry, you may be surprised to know that The Kitchen is the latest DC Comics adaptation to hit the big screen. Taking a break from superheroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, the film is adapted from the 2015 limited series that explores the adventures of three Irish mob wives in late 1970s New York City.

Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) are disrespected women who are forced to fend for themselves when their criminal husbands (Brian d'Arcy James, James Badge Dale, and Jeremy Bobb, respectively) get sentenced to four years in jail. When mob boss Jackie (Myk Watford) fails to deliver on his promise to take care of them, the three women decide to try to take control of their own neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen.

Almost right from the start, it's clear that writer/director Andrea Berloff has no idea how to handle the material. Early scenes in films are usually extended a bit to lay the groundwork of the characters and the plot. Berloff, however, gives scenes all the attention of individual comic book frames, speeding through scene after scene so that the audience only gets small tastes of what's happening.

Consequently, everything in the film winds up at surface level. There's no exploration of how hard the women have had it in their lives or how the choices they make might not be as easy as they're made to seem. Most of their interactions with area business owners are so smooth and conflict-free that you have to roll your eyes. They simply decide to take over the crime business in Hell's Kitchen and before you know it, they're not only in charge but thriving.

It's not until over an hour into the movie that Berloff decides to slow things down a bit, a transition that coincides when the women run afoul of an Italian mob boss (Bill Camp). But any complications that arise because of his presence or other events in the second half of the film fail to matter thanks to the lack of development in the beginning.

Each of the three main actors is great in her own way in other projects, but none of them comes off very well here. McCarthy, fresh off her Oscar nomination for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, is the most solid, exuding strength and vulnerability in equal measures. Haddish and Moss, however, ham it up in their respective roles, apparently thinking that more is better. Domhnall Gleeson, normally a great actor, shows up late in a desultory performance, and Common plays an FBI agent with almost nothing to do.

Women deserve and are getting more great opportunities in the film business, and The Kitchen should have been a showcase for both its stars and writer/director. Instead, it's a dumpster fire of a movie that makes little sense and is a black mark on the reputations of its many well-known actors.

Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, and Melissa McCarthy in The Kitchen
Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, and Melissa McCarthy in The Kitchen. Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa