The Kitchen is a 70s crime drama which focuses on a theme that feels of great importance right now. The power of the female film trio. But while some may think this falls to close to recent crime drama Widows, the two movies are quite different. They do both feature women taking over after their husbands aren’t in charge anymore. But while they each have female crime trios, the similarities end there.
This story is actually more suspense than crime drama. It’s a throwback movie, not just in look but in spirit. A 70s crime drama set in 1978, depicting the Irish mob run Hell’s Kitchen. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Claire (Elisabeth Moss), and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) are housewives. All tending to their condescending, violent, or complacent mob husbands. After the men are jailed for an armed robbery gone bad, Kathy sees an opportunity to take over their business dealings and help the family.
But like most stories of this nature begin, just like Walter White, power eventually breeds ruthlessness and greed.
For those expecting that charming McCarthy humor, or Haddish’s wise cracks, this isn’t that film. Despite some comedy sprinkled in, this isn’t a totally likable trio.
But they are kind of cool. This is a world where women can get to the top and wield power. Even if it takes the man’s absence to get there. There are still other men around. But they’re handled, either by smooth talking them or just killing them.
Once the women are successful running things, with Kathy at the helm, their empowerment evolves. They flaunt romances, new clothes, and an evolved sense of self confidence. One particular scene with Haddish in New York City beautifully depicts this evolution.
When the husbands return home on early parole, they threaten their new lifestyles and roles. As well as their business dealings, including a relationship with the Italian mafia.
The film has a vintage feel and even features an intense cameo by Anabella Sciorra as a call out to past inspired mob movies. Like other 70s crime drama films, it evokes a time long before the #metoo movement. But it also does a lot to dismiss that narrative.
Unlikes the mob stories of Pesci, De Niro, Liotta or Pacino, this is a world with women at the helm, and they’re allowed to be just as brutal.
Perhaps because a woman herself is behind the film. Screenwriter Andrea Berloff also wrote her directorial debut which is based on a graphic comic book.
The women of the Kitchen aren’t trying to right a wrong, or fight any particular villain. They kind of are the villains. They’re normal, have families, but are also calculating, even vicious at times. Kathy, the brains of the group bakes cookies, and coldly orders hits. Ruby, the brawns, dealing with racism ever since marrying into the family revels in her new position of power. Claire, fragile and rage filled realizes her passion for dismemberment.
While Kathy is calm and controlled, Ruby’s a hothead with debatable loyalties. Enjoying both an inflated wallet and ego. Claire, on the other hand, gets her catharsis in other ways. Her happy ending is more about freedom than power or money.
The Kitchen plays out like 70s crime drama mixed with a female revenge fantasy.
It’s reminiscent of Thelma and Louise in the way violence ultimately births a new empowered attitude and a female uprising against the men committing it.
A look at what happens when smart, ambitious women who were dismissed get a chance to run a society that oppressed them. But they’re not just satisfied with power. They want payback and it rears its head in various forms. All to illustrate that a woman shouldn’t be underestimated, or under appreciated.
Angelina Jolie recently penned a personal essay on why we need wicked women in the world. The Kitchen also reminds us that there’s a place for badass women who break rules and norms. Even if the film doesn’t quite work, that’s a concept I can get behind.
Will you see the Kitchen? What is your favorite 70s crime drama?