by Rob DiCristino
Written and directed by Andrea Berloff and based on the DC Vertigo comic book miniseries by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, The Kitchen is a ‘70s New York crime drama about a trio of mob wives (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss) who are left in the lurch by Hell’s Kitchen’s O’Carroll crime family after their husbands are arrested during an attempted robbery. Unable to live on the piddling allowance offered by boss Little Jackie (Myk Watford), the ladies decide to start making their own neighborhood collections, enlisting shell-shocked veteran and former O’Carroll soldier Gabriel O’Malley (Domhnall Gleeson) as an enforcer. As the ladies earn more and more territory (eventually squeezing out Little Jackie and O’Carroll matriarch Helen, played by Margo Martindale), they establish a partnership with Alfonso Coretti’s (Bill Camp) more powerful Brooklyn family. But when their husbands are unexpectedly released from prison and demand their cut of the action, the new bosses must band together to hold onto what they’ve earned.
First, the good: There are a number of things to celebrate in The Kitchen, not the least of which being that it’s a crime drama directed by a woman, written by a woman, and prominently starring women. It’s a poignant examination of patriarchal power structures and how they undermine the potential successes of capable leaders who just happen to be lacking in the bulge. It addresses those imbalances on the domestic front, as well, often illustrating just how incompetent these preening and posturing “male heads of household” actually are. It lets Kathy, Ruby, and Claire (McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss, respectively) be bosses and villains and heroes and lovers and mothers and murderers, and it portrays their emotions and vulnerabilities as assets in those pursuits, not disadvantages. Whenever possible, it seeks to humanize them. It rarely forces them to sacrifice any essential parts of their femininity in order to be successful, nor does it limit its definition of “a badass woman” to “a badass man doing badass man things, except with boobs.”