‘The Kitchen” seems written, directed and edited by a small committee, not too much unlike its three leads. Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish play the trio of women who decide to take matters into their own hands when their small-time Irish mobster hubbies get sent up the river for three years.
The film was actually written and directed by Andrea Berloff in her directing debut. Believe it or not, the material is based on the Vertigo comic miniseries series with the same name, by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. (Ollie and Doyle sound Irish...)
Set in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s, before gentrification hit and the rents went up, these micks were happy with just collecting protection monies from the locals, or the occasional robbery. It was enough to pay rent on an apartment, feed themselves and hang out at their favorite bar. The garbage and the rats weren’t unusual in their neighborhood. It was their life.
Two of them, Ruby O’Carroll (Haddish) and Claire Walsh (Moss), are married to serial abusers (though nothing like Claire’s husband) and they’re happy for the break. But Kathy Brennan (McCarthy) loves her husband, and worries about how she’ll pay rent and feed their two kids. When the men are sent off, the rest of the gang assures them they’ll be taken care of, they’re “family.” But the money slipped in an envelope couldn’t feed anyone, much less pay the rent.
So over a glass of wine (well, several glasses), they decide they can run this show on their own. They know they’re going to be catching some flak from the gang, after all it’s a man’s world. But I’m not sure they thought they might have to kill a few. It’s just a little protection business really. And frankly, the boys hadn’t really been paying that much attention to their clients: small grocery stores, retailers and the like.
So when the girls started cleaning up, expanding the territory, and schmoozing the Italians down in Brooklyn, they didn’t count on just how much bruised ego the men could take. So they had to call on the Italians for a bit of help.
Claire’s character is the biggest surprise. Bullied and beaten, downtrodden as they used to say, she makes the biggest leap of the three. (But then Moss, who made her “bones” in “Mad Men” is also the better actor of the three.) Claire’s so damaged by her previous life that when Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson), a Vietnam vet and former hitman, shows up in time to shoot someone attempting to rape her, she’s up for anything and everything — especially Gabriel.
Annabella Sciorra, lovely as ever, does a cameo as the Italian boss’ wife. Her attitude is “go get ’em, all they’ve ever done is screw us (or words to that effect).” It’s a real “Me-Too” movement line.
Berloff is as guilty as her characters, guilty of some bad editing, awkward transitions and a fondness for overwhelming score — mostly period rock. The film had a terrible opening, certainly McCarthy’s worst, at $5.5 million for opening weekend. It’s been compared to “Widows.” But “Widows” was a better film. I’m just surprised to see such similar films released so close together.
Those of you thinking this is going to be some fun since McCarthy is in it are in for a shock. She doesn’t say anything remotely amusing in the whole film. And if you’re squeamish, forget it — unless you want a primer on the correct way to dismember a body in the bathtub, and in what part of the East River to dump it so it gets carried out to sea.
See you at the movies.
Toni Clem is a Paris resident and has been writing Deja View for more than 30 years.