The Kitchen is about those running the Hell’s Kitchen Irish mob in 1970s New York City. If that conjured images of men wearing leather jackets and carrying shiny pistols, you’re only half right.
Andrea Berloff’s directorial debut starts out with nothing short of a bang. The scene is set with sweeping shots of Manhattan while “It’s a Man’s World” plays. It reminded me of every other male-dominated gangster movie, until the husbands of our three leading ladies get arrested.
If a film has one well-developed female character, I’m impressed. But The Kitchen gave us three unique women with their own thoughts and distinct personalities. They are not love interests. They are not plot devices. They are multidimensional people. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) tries to see the good in people despite the corruption of those around her. Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) throws herself into a power struggle on behalf of her fellow black Americans, doing whatever she has to do to accomplish her goals and making the audience cheer for her along the way. Claire (Elisabeth Moss) undergoes a huge transformation. At the film’s beginning she scurries away from a catcaller. By the end, she’s pulling (and firing) guns on them in broad daylight.
These women are cruel and intelligent. They make mistakes and they make decisions. Most importantly, though, they don’t always have to be best friends and they don’t have to be perfect. In short, they are doing everything you see in Goodfellas or The Godfather. They are exactly as powerful and as fallible as those films’ male protagonists. At the end of the film, I thought I knew how the tension that was slowly building between Kathy and Ruby would pan out, but again I was proven wrong. The ending surprised me, but again it got me thinking: if a carbon copy of the film was made starring men, would I have reacted differently? I had an amazing time watching these women on screen. The Kitchen does not pander and does not uplift. After watching it, I felt properly represented and ready to kick some ass.