The Kitchen Review: Fresh talents turns rotten in this messy comic book adaptation
Although The Kitchen, an adaptation of the comic series from DC/Vertigo, has plenty of strong talent behind it, their talent is sucked completely dry through a mediocre script and characters that just feel bland.
The film follows Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elizabeth Moss) – three wives of Irish mobsters whose husbands are sentenced to prison after a job gone wrong. With the “help” from the mob family being minimal and having no other source of income, the three women begin to take up the racketeering work that their husbands were doing before their incarceration. However, even with many men looking down on them, the group finds strength in one another as well as themselves to take control of the mob and have power for the first time in their lives. Things become dicey, though, as rivals begin to move in on them and they are forced to deal with the fallout of their rising power.
Now, to be clear, I’ve never heard of or read the original comic series by Ollie Masters. However, just from researching and looking at slick art style from Ming Doyle – it’s easy to see how this adaptation is missing any sort of unique aesthetics to make it pop. There’s really nothing about the color scheme or atmosphere that pops off the screen or makes you unable to take your eyes of it. Instead everything is just visually bland about the area and it’s almost like seeing backgrounds and locations that you’ve seen in better movies. It’s funny because the opening credits for the production companies feature more vintage logos and colors that oddly disappear throughout the rest of the movie and it’s a shame because it would make the world of The Kitchen stand out more than just being another neighborhood in Manhattan. Also, just giving each of the main women their own distinct color to kind of match the characters from the comic isn’t enough to make them distinct or unique.
Honestly, the blandness really infects the entire script, some of the characters, and the performances of it’s leading ladies. McCarthy and Haddish don’t really bring any sort of energy, charisma, or even likeability at times to their characters and their performances really don’t reflect their talent. These are two great performers and have found a balance between drama and comedy that should’ve made their appearances here a slam-dunk. Not to mention, McCarthy was even just nominated for an Oscar for her incredible performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Haddish has just won an Emmy for her appearance on SNL, but their talent never really shows and the complex motivations of their characters are stuck behind their blandly tough personalities. Moss is the only one who allows her character’s fun personality to show and was the only character that viewers will find themselves connecting to. Her growth from being a battered wife to a grisly gangster ready to do anything to never feel belittled again is pretty powerful and Moss puts in a great performance that’s entertaining and enjoyable to see. She also shares some great chemistry with Gabriel (Domhall Gleeson), a common criminal who helps the women come to power and develops a romantic relationship with Claire. Gleeson has some fun moments with Moss and their relationship brings some charming energy to the film that it desperately needs.
The script and story from Andrea Berloff, the Oscar-nominated writer of Straight Out of Compton, also needs to be heavily punched up as everything with The Kitchen just comes off as generic. The dialogue is basically just recycled from other crime films and gives the film no distinct identity. Even Berloff’s directorial debut lacks identity and does have many moments that stand out. A lot of shots are repetitive and there are a lot of times that she uses songs to transition over their growth in Hell’s Kitchen, but it ultimately hurts the film because it glosses over all of the details and great character moments that these characters need. The premise of The Kitchen can be a very empowering one and surely these characters are given more moments to develop their characters overtime. With this adaptation, though, I couldn’t help but feel like their rise to power and what it does to them in only touched on the surface level. The film lacks any sort of rich detail for viewers to attach themselves to the group’s journey and, worst of all, it can make the characters seem heavily unlikable at times – especially Kathy and Ruby. Most of the time, the group seems super kill-happy and it makes it hard to connect to them or smaller characters in the film when they drop so fast that you can barely remember who they are. There’s even a late plot-twist that comes out of nowhere, in the worst way, and ends up going nowhere so it just comes off like a pointless twist that just extends the film for no reason.
Even with the gourmet talent that’s working behind it, The Kitchen severely lacks the finesse, style, or power to be anything more than generic and far from flavorful. It’s definitely a story worth telling and one that I wouldn’t mind seeing another adaptation of one day, but hopefully that one will leave viewers with something more than just the audible feeling of “meh.”