FILM REVIEW: Despite a great menu, The Kitchen serves up bland dish

From left, Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy and Elisabeth Moss in a scene from The Kitchen. Alison Cohen Rosa, © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

 

Everyone knows the old saying, “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” but that’s a much easier problem to fix than what happens in the new movie The Kitchen.

In this kitchen, you have five of the best chefs in the world and they’re in there cooking and you’re so excited — and they wind up serving you a grilled cheese sandwich.

It’s not bad. Some bites are even delicious. But it’s still just a grilled cheese and you’re inevitably disappointed.

Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish (in her first dramatic role) and Elizabeth Moss join forces as three long-suffering wives of the Irish mob in the mid to late 1970’s in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.

When their husbands get arrested and sent to prison, the ‘family’ promises to take care of them but falls short of actually providing for them. With no jobs available, the ladies look to their neighbourhood and quickly discover the local businesses aren’t getting the protection they pay for.

They decide to take over the family business and do it better than the boys ever did. This is a great plan, until their husbands are eventually released from prison and expects them to return to their little wifey roles.

The film gets a lot right – the sets, costumes and look of Hell’s Kitchen are exacting in their precision – Farrah Fawcett bangs haven’t looked this good since Farrah herself.

McCarthy, Haddish and Moss do more with their underdeveloped characters than the writing deserves, and Domnhall Gleeson (son of Brendan) continues to make every film he’s a part of better for it.

Gleeson and Moss have a palpable chemistry and make the brief moments of two lost and tortured souls finding each other more touching than expected.

Where it goes wrong is having the transformation the women undergo shown predominantly through montages – montages are great for a makeover but less effective when you’re trying to illustrate a 180-degree change in a person’s character and values.

Add to that the heavy handed and surface level ‘you-go-girl’ feminist lip service instead of nuanced introspection about the real challenges and gender stereotypes a female-led mob in the ‘70’s would encounter, and I was left more than a little frustrated.

This is a movie where ALL of the pieces are there – great casting, great story, great actors, a dark comedic tone, great visuals and yet it all adds up only to an OK movie. It’s not bad, but it could have been great. See it only after managing your expectations.

 

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia