A movie starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss as a trio of learning ladies determined to break out of the confines of the cliche “supportive wife” role and finally put their wits and determination to use? It’s hard to say no to a pitch like that and perhaps The Kitchen once had some serious big screen potential, but what writer-director Andrea Berloff wound up delivering is an incomplete and tonally confusing mess.
The movie is an adaption of the Vertigo comic book series of the same name by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. It kicks off in 1978 introducing Kathy Brennan (McCarthy), Ruby O’Carroll (Haddish), and Claire Walsh (Moss); women who are frequently disrespected and undervalued by their husbands who work for the Irish mob. When their husbands are caught robbing a store and sentenced to three years in prison, the ladies are inspired to stand up for themselves, take matters into their own hands and build a mob of their own.
Berloff establishes a foundation well enough in the first act of the film, suggesting that McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss could possible become an appealing, memorable trio to root for but any good will quickly caves under the weight of major missed story beats, unearned extreme behavior, and the utter lack of scene transitions. The latter is one of the most disappointing blunders for Berloff. An accomplished screenwriter with an Academy Award nomination to her name for her work on Straight Outta Compton, The Kitchen marks Berloff’s first go behind the lens of a feature film and it becomes abundantly clear that she’s in way over her head. Even with talent like McCarthy, Haddish and Moss, some conversations feel painfully stilted and stale with some bizarre visual framing and editing choices that suggest desperation to stitch something comprehensible together. The movie is loaded with scenes that cut off abruptly, and in some cases, the movie then immediately cuts to another scene that’ll last a matter of seconds with next to no plot value.
As for the lack of transitions, that proves to be an especially devastating problem when it comes to building tension and creating believable arcs for the lead characters. It’s a little bit of a stretch buying into the idea of the trio jumpstarting a mob of their own, but at that point, the movie is humming along well enough to entice the viewer to go along with it. The undeniable disconnect comes with the extreme uptick in violence and downright reprehensible decisions. Perhaps a scenario like this does call for questionable behavior, but you still need to justify that behavior first and The Kitchen most certainly does not. And in the case of the gratuitous physical and gun violence in the film, the lack of justification makes those moments flat out off-putting.
The tonal inconsistencies don’t help either. Sometimes The Kitchen is pushing to be a dark comedy, other times it ramps up the drama, and every now and then, a little suspense will try to creep in. No, a movie certainly doesn’t have to be boxed into being just one thing, but these severe variations do have to be woven together well and they’re not here. What results is plain old confusion, a slew of unintentional laughs, important story beats that land with a thud, and little motivation to wholeheartedly root for the main characters.
McCarthy, Haddish and Moss seem to give the roles their all, but The Kitchen is so disjointed that the effort is for naught. The movie’s big finish is one of the most unsatisfying, disappointing endings I’ve seen this year and, overall, it’s a struggle to isolate redeeming qualities in the final product.
If you’d like to hear more about The Kitchen, check out our non-spoiler review on today’s episode of Movie Talk at the top of this article. Tune in for Collider Movie Talk every day, Monday through Friday, at 3pm PT live on the Collider Video YouTube channel!