Chew's Reviews - The Kitchen

In these days of Netflix providing online subscribers product with such catchy titles as GIRLS WITH BALLS, Andrea Berloff's just released movie called THE KITCHEN seems quite congruent. But you should know the picture (conceived first as a comic book series) has nothing to do with where a wife and/or mother might prepare the family meals. Instead, it names a place in a giant city known as Hell's Kitchen. (Oh, that kind of kitchen!)

It's the 1970s in Hell's Kitchen. Three wives: Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Claire (Elisabeth Moss) and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) are, in the first act, confronted with their mobster husbands getting slammed in the joint for pulling a liquor store stickup. (Oh, no! What will the children say? Oh, yes: Kathy's sweet little boy and girl.)

While the three dudes are doing the time, these three “ladies” graduate into the tasks their AWOL guys handled for the Irish Kitchen mob; mainly scoring money from biz folks for protection and following up on any element in the 'hood' that might be messin' with their clients' stuff or property. With this new circumstance, conflicts arise among the Irish faction. It's the same thing between the Irish and the kind gents of a Jewish persuasion a few blocks up the avenue; and then … and then, more big trouble comes with Alfonso Coretti (Bill Camp) over in Brooklyn, where lots of singing takes place, especially opera.

The empowerment of women is Ms. Berloff''s inescapable point. It's a good and valid one, even if the person typing these words is of the other gender. It's always seemed rather obvious to me that females, much of the time, get short shrift from too many men. No argument with me on that. And now, here comes the “but.”

Berloff, who wrote the script for STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON, navigates her KITCHEN through the blue-speak, accents and urban attitudes that many enjoyed with THE SOPRANOS. I was, myself, chuckling sixty percent of the time with all that kind of KITCHEN, which does include several scenes of bloody, grisly events; even the dismemberment (in the bathtub) of bodies that have only recently become deceased, if you know what I mean. The tone of the chatter and the fact that three almost middle-aged women are “going to school” on how to control a mob in a New York borough have entertainment value.

Closing out the film, it becomes clear Ms. Berloff's message shall (!) be delivered to a pretty pumped up bunch of movie fans who've gone along with the undertow of a mobster-like mirth. Bang: it gets not at all funny, fast. Kathy's character takes to the “lectern or pulpit” for the sermon. McCarthy, being the most qualified as current American cinema's best “in-your-face broad” delivers decisively. But just a little overboard, maybe? No, not just a little, a whole damn lot: although no damage to its validity.

The final frames suggest a sequel might be afoot. Bah-humbug to that for moi. Why? The women, now only two of which remain in THE KITCHEN, are at odds, but seem to have the ... er, er, uh … the motivation to maintain their criminality. They're really good at it. They seem to dig the gig. Stop!

Most of the movie carries humor on its underside to all of the hell breaking loose on top of the script. It's troublesome for me to conflate those two qualities as (as they say) “the story ends.” It is not really alright for women or men to carry forward a life of crime ... as naive as that might sound today in this Trump nation. For me, it's okay for the gals to move forward as lady mobsters if I'm able to remain at enough distance appreciating the nudge of low-key comedy. The empowerment message is plenty plain and valid enough without laying it on as someone might smite balls with her bat.

Copyright © 2019 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


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