Adapted from the DC Vertigo comic book series, The Kitchen is unlikely to be the gritty, grounded comic book adaptation everyone is going to be talking about this year but at least nobody is getting all histrionic about the possibility of downtrodden housewives rising up and taking over their husbands’ businesses after seeing this movie.
When their husbands are involved in a heist which goes wrong and are sent to prison for three years, Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Claire (Elisabeth Moss) and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) are left at the mercy of Ruby’s mother-in-law, the Irish mob matriarch Helen (Margo Martindale). Realising they’re not going to be taken care of, the women band together and take over their husbands’ protection racket.
There are some great performances in “The Kitchen”, with all three leads doing good work, particularly Haddish who brings steely darkness to her character that may surprise fans of her comedy roles to date although occasionally McCarthy comes perilously close to slipping into her old schtick. Domhnall Gleeson, too, gives yet another superb, transformative performance, underlining just how versatile an actor he is but outside of those four, it has to be said, the performances drop off quite markedly.
It may not be the fault of the cast, though, because there’s an over-stuffed, rushed approach to the storytelling which genuinely feels like somebody had taken a full season of a prestige crime drama and then savagely edited it down to feature-length, discarding hours of slow character and story development in favour of a punchier runtime. It’s a real shame, too, because this is one TV show I would watch the hell out of.
“The Kitchen” has a fascinating story to tell and needs far longer to do it in. Longer for us to grow to like (or hate) the characters, empathise with their struggles, feel their pain and share their triumphs. It’s a sprawling, epic story of gangland warfare with the adding contemporary twist of having the whole ‘sisters are doing it for themselves’ subtext but in its hurry to get to each beat of the story, it trips over itself and flings all of the elements in your face like a clumsy, Clouseau-esque waiter bringing your meal to the table.
“Widows” managed to tell a similar story because it was a tighter, more streamlined story but “The Kitchen” has soap opera ambitions and so subtlety and patient storytelling go out of the window and with it, any credible sense of drama.