The Kitchen (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The only thing one can truly appreciate in Andrea Berloff’s directorial debut, The Kitchen (2019), are the attempted strong performances of the actors, despite the bad dialogue, weak editing, and poor character development. If the seams of the film weren’t so oddly stitched together, it would be possible to blame the performances for this movie’s shortcomings – fortunately for the cast, it is apparent that there are much bigger problems afoot. The trailers had me hoping for a more comedic take on Widows (2018), but it came up far short of anything I’d been anticipating. 

Apparently I couldn’t take the heat, so I had to get out of The Kitchen

Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) are the wives of the leaders of the Irish mob. Their husbands get arrested and sentenced to three years in prison, and the ladies find themselves in financial trouble when the “family” refuses to take care of them. Refusing to go down without a fight, Kathy, Ruby, and Claire decide that a change in leadership is needed, and forge a hostile takeover for their husband’s rightful roles. 

McCarthy and Moss give very strong performances that are by far the highlight of this film. Haddish has impressed me in the past…however, the bad dialogue is really highlighted by her stilted performance. She carries herself with the toughness that a character like Ruby needs to have, but there are several moments where her lines feel abrupt and forced, emphasizing how weak the film truly is. With Moss and McCarthy (also poor Domhnall Gleeson), their performances somehow manage to eclipse the bad writing, making them feel slightly more believable. 

The character motivations, the plot, and the pacing of it all feels far too vague. It doesn’t take long for the film to get moving, but it jumps around quickly – and rather than letting us get to know the characters or what they are doing, we are given lame montages that only shows us the aftermath of their exploits in the form of stacks of money in envelopes. That’s at least one example that really stands out as a flaw when we think about economy of storytelling. There are moments throughout the film – random shots of rats or hiding places for money – that ultimately go nowhere or give no further information. They are filler visuals used to pad the runtime rather than conveying meaningful information that could help inform the story or characters. 

Final thoughts…

Ultimately, the Kitchen felt like a huge waste of everyone’s time. It’s a crime movie that opts to mostly not show any crimes taking place, nor does it really dive into the power struggles with in. A brief reference here could be considered a spoiler: Berloff even throws in a twist that feels forced, which then becomes irrelevant as the film comes to its conclusion. Everything in the Kitchen feels like a half baked idea that could have developed into something actually entertaining, earning it the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.

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