I went into The Kitchen with low expectations. Seriously low. The reviews online had not been kind, but I figured I’d give it a shot anyways. It turns out the critics were wrong. At least in my opinion.
In 1978, three gangsters in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen get busted and sentenced to three years in prison. Their wives are left behind to navigate the gritty Irish neighborhood alone. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) is the heart of the group. Mother of two, sweet, and friends with everyone in the community. Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), a black woman, has basically been iced out by her white in-laws. Especially her nasty mother-in-law (Margo Martindale). Claire (Elizabeth Moss) is actually thankful for her husband’s sentence because he has been abusing her for years. The women are given little financial assistance and can’t get real jobs. So, they decide to go into the business, seeing a chance to outmaneuver the head of the mob and usurp his territory. The money flows in along with the problems. Murder, backstabbing, and twists come flying fast.
The theme of women’s empowerment runs through the film. It was written and directed by a woman (Andrea Berloff) and has three formidable female characters. For years Kathy, Ruby, and Claire depended on men to take care of them. But when their safety net is taken away, they discover they can do a better job of running things. It’s not that they don’t need men. They come to rely on a few tough guys, especially brutal executor-turned boyfriend, Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson). But they needed the men to get out of their way so they could stand on their own. As their husbands’ equals. The tenacity was inside them all along. They just needed the opportunity.
Berloff and her cast successfully capture the evolution of these former mob wives in a changing landscape. Yes, there are some weak plot points in the script. And certain characters could have been fleshed out more. But in the end, I walked out of the theatre feeling more entertained than I would have thought going in. Sometimes you have to ignore movie reviews. Just, not mine.