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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

The Kitchen movie review: A misguided Martin Scorsese rip-off that peddles faux-feminism. 1 star

The Kitchen movie review: Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish are wasted in this tonally inconsistent Martin Scorsese rip-off. Rating: 1/5.

hollywood Updated: Aug 23, 2019 09:00 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
The Kitchen movie review: Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish star in a tonally inept crime dramedy.
The Kitchen movie review: Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish star in a tonally inept crime dramedy.
         

The Kitchen
Director - Andrea Berloff
Cast - Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, Margot Martindale, Domnhall Gleeson
Rating - 1/5 

Based on a comic book that you haven’t heard of and resembling something that Martin Scorsese might be offered by an overeager agent, The Kitchen is a charlatan operating under the guise of an original studio film. So devoted it is to the cliches of its genre, I half expected Bobby Cannavale to pop up every couple of minutes.

It shares a near-identical premise to the recent Steve McQueen movie, Widows. In it, three wives of three mobsters are forced to fend for themselves when their husbands are arrested for their many crimes and put behind bars.

Watch The Kitchen trailer here 

Instead of observing their newfound poverty as a wake-up call; a sign from above to re-route to the straight and narrow - they’ve lived on dirty money for the entirety of their married lives - the three ladies decide that the best plan would be to begin their own criminal enterprise. It is the first (but certainly not the last) of the film’s many bad ideas.

And guess what, they find that being women, what with all their inherent talents for manipulation and scheming, gives them a certain competitive edge in the crowded market of organised crime.

But soon, like the story of every misguided start-up with an overinflated valuation, the ladies are struck by the ground realities of running a business. They must now contend with unplanned overheads, unexpected infighting, and that one team member who insists they’re the ‘idea guy’ and not really cut out for all the adult responsibilities.

The Kitchen is so uninspired - both in its ideas and the implementation of those ideas - that I’m convinced it exists only because Warner Bros had already invested in erecting ‘70s era New York sets for their Joker movie. So, ‘screw it’, they thought to themselves, and to maximise returns decided to allow debutante director Andrea Berloff to film during off hours. The title is both a pun on the film’s setting - the infamous Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of NYC - and an example of its blazing feminism.

The Kitchen leaves Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss stranded in the middle of a glorified fancy dress party.
The Kitchen leaves Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss stranded in the middle of a glorified fancy dress party.

The Kitchen wastes a trio of committed leads - Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss - and leaves them stranded in the middle of a glorified fancy dress party. In fact, the casting of McCarthy and Haddish in particular sort of gives out a wrong idea for what kind of film The Kitchen is. It most certainly isn’t a comedy, nor is it all that dramatic.

It exists somewhere in the middle, unsure of where it truly belongs - should it pander to Melissa McCarthy’s fanbase, or should it aim higher? Who knows? Tonally, the film is wildly inconsistent; fluctuating between making awkward jokes and showing shocking violence (usually against women), until it arrives at the inevitable conclusion that the best step forward would be to combine both. “Besides getting hit, what other skills you got?” one character quips at her friend, a lifelong victim of domestic abuse. Not five minutes later, a guy is giving a masterclass on how to correctly dismember a (rapist’s) body. Both scenes are played for laughs.

Melissa McCarthy follows up the greatest film of her career - Can You Ever Forgive Me? - with what is perhaps her worst.
Melissa McCarthy follows up the greatest film of her career - Can You Ever Forgive Me? - with what is perhaps her worst.

But what is most annoying about this film is its smug manner. Berloff truly believes she’s created some sort of maverick feminist fable. It almost feels cruel to point out the many flaws in the film’s ideology. For instance, despite insisting that the three central characters are more than capable of taking care of themselves, they’re frequently put in situations from which they must be bailed out by men.

But the other, decidedly more problematic plot point deals with the controversial storytelling trope known colloquially as ‘fridging’. The origins of the concept, like The Kitchen, can be traced to the world of comic books. It involves the sacrifice of a female character - either by maiming, raping, or killing her - simply to allow the male characters an opportunity to develop.

A woman dies in The Kitchen. And because of her death, two other women evolve into better human beings. In any other film, this would simply be dismissed as an outdated cliche, but watching it in The Kitchen was like having Ganesh Gaitonde extol the virtues of ahimsa.

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First Published: Aug 23, 2019 08:56 IST