Wait until you can stream it…
This should work, but it does not. The Kitchen is extremely well-cast, the source material is lauded, and the writer-director was involved with Straight Outta Compton, a highlight of the 2010s. Sadly, it does not. Whilst it does have its moments, one’s overall enjoyment of the film is ruined by a few bad apples.
Most of The Kitchen‘s rotten eggs come from the script. This film is over-saturated with cliched dialogue. It is a wonder Andrea Berloff has not been done for plagiarism: lines such as “trouble will come looking for you”, “we’ve got a problem”, and “we need to talk” have been used so many that they have no impact. People do not talk like this at all. Considering Berloff wrote a standout film of this decade, Straight Outta Compton, it is surprising her script is so lazy here.
Another problem with the script is its structure. Events fly by so swiftly and without any narrative cohesion that the film is hard to follow. It feels more like a montage of different crimes than a woven together narrative. One minute these women are mobsters’ wives. The next they are on top of the criminal network. What does not help is the fact very few of these events gel together tonally. Scenes humorous in tone awkwardly jar with intense and uncomfortable scenes depicting attempted rape and violence against women. Funerals are mixed with laughs. Tone oscillates from the camp to the gritty and never picks a side. Whilst none of these scenes are done particularly badly per se- the use of silence during the attempted rape scene was particularly effective- the way the story is structured means that none of these plot points feel seamlessly connected. The script is the main thing holding this film back.
This is shame because one of the performances is superb and deserved a better script. Elizabeth Moss does a fantastic job conveying the meek and vulnerable side of Claire at the beginning, and effortlessly transforms into a cold killer by the end. Moss tells so much without saying anything at all. Her performance needs to be commended.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other two leads. Melissa McCarthy’s only emotion in this film seems to be an inauthentic worry/look of concern. Tiffany Haddish is unconvincing as Ruby. Is anyone really intimidated by her? Both performances feel cartoonish, and do not feel like they belong in the same film as the one for which Moss is brilliantly acting.
Not everything feels inauthentic, though. The setting is impressively realised. Both environment and period are brought to life. You can really feel the grime and the neglect of Hell’s Kitchen. Shane Valentio deserves credit for excellent production design. It is hard to believe this film was not made in 1970s New York.
Some of The Kitchen works. In its pantry, you can find an impressive performance from Elizabeth Moss, individual scenes remarkably well-executed, and commendable production design. Sadly, these are paired with poor script writing and cartoonish performances from the other leads. This is a film with plenty of great ingredients, but all of them are thrown together thoughtlessly, with a few bad ingredients added too. As a result, The Kitchen fails to create a recipe that works.