The Kitchen Parent Guide
You could find this predictable plot in a box labeled "Generic Gang Script No. 1" in your local store.
Parent Movie Review
Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in 1978, is about as tough as it gets. Honest residents struggle to squeeze out a living, and frequently turn to organized crime for protection or a stable income. When three major members of the Irish mob are arrested their wives see an opportunity to consolidate the mob’s grip on the neighborhood. Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) will now have to contend, not only with other gangs and the cops, but with the men in their own gang who don’t believe that women are capable of running an organized crime family.
I have mixed feelings about this movie. While The Kitchen delivers some good messages about the struggles women face, it is inconsistent in doing so. Though the female protagonists undoubtedly manage to succeed in a male dominated space, that space is organized crime. The film whitewashes the activities of street gangs, elevating the violence, extortion, racketeering, and general unpleasantness to a form of community service. Yes, the crime family secures jobs for local union workers - but they also threaten and murder a few people to get them. The movie treats the violence as separate from the mobs’ other activities, but they are closely intertwined.
The Kitchen isn’t technically poorly made, but nothing about the production really stands out apart from the cast. Melissa McCarthy is fantastic as usual, bringing buckets of charm and some solid emotion to ground the plot. Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish are also superb additions. On the other hand, the script is as by-the-numbers as they come. You could probably find it in a box labelled “Generic Gang Script No.1” in your local store. Worse than being predictable, however, the movie is just boring: it doesn’t let any tension build up, which won’t keep viewers engaged. Any emotional response the audience will feel comes from the quality of the lead actors and has nothing to do with the plot or script.
Gangster films are notorious for being profanity-laden and violent, and this is no exception. I counted 78 uses of the sexual expletive alone, which averages to one use every two minutes. While this may be realistic for the gangsters portrayed, it likely isn’t very appealing to parents. There is less violence than in other films of the genre, but a whole lot of people still get whacked on screen. A scene involving the dismemberment of a body in a bathtub, although not graphic, still includes enough detail that the lady behind me gagged to the point that I started to worry.
The Kitchen doesn’t bring much to the genre that Widows didn’t do last year. It’s kind of fun, vaguely funny, and almost entirely pointless. The film is at its best discussing misogyny and fails nearly everywhere else. Unfortunately, the “everything else” is most of the movie. The best thing I can say for it is that it’s short, but even then the pacing is awkward and inconsistent. There are better Melissa McCarthy movies, there are better female empowerment movies, and there are better gangster movies out there. Save your money on this one.Directed by Andrea Berloff. Starring Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, and Tiffany Haddish.. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release August 9, 2019. Updated August 14, 2019
Watch the trailer for The Kitchen
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Kitchen rated R? The Kitchen is rated R by the MPAA for violence, language throughout and some sexual content.
Violence: Eleven people are shot and killed throughout the film, one of which is only heard through a door rather than shown. There are scenes containing references to and depictions of domestic violence. Several individuals are beaten severely. Individuals are shown being dismembered in a bathtub and their remains put in garbage bags for disposal.
Sexual Content: There are several brief references to sexual behavior. There is a scene in which two characters have sex but which contains no nudity (the individuals are shown only from the shoulders up).
Profanity: By my count there were 80 uses of “Extreme” profanity, comprising mostly of “F-bombs”. There were close to four dozen uses of profanity in every other category as well.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters are frequently shown drinking, either alone or in bars and restaurants. Several characters are shown smoking cigarettes. Characters are not depicted as drunken.
Page last updated August 14, 2019
The Kitchen Parents' Guide
The Kitchen celebrates the success of these women in overcoming misogyny in the world of organized crime. Do you think this is worth celebrating? Why do you think the movie doesn’t show the suffering other women endured at the hands of the mob when they were robbed, extorted or saw their partners or children beaten or killed? Does empowering some women at the expense of other women feel okay to you?
Do you think a discussion of intersectionality has a place in analyzing this film?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you want to know more about women in the world of organized crime, you can turn to Queenpins: Notorious Women Gangsters of the Modern Era. Written by Ron Chepesiuk, the book examines crime from a global perspective and looks at women who “succeeded” in drug trafficking, human trafficking, bank robbing, bootlegging, and gambling.
Live by Night , a novel by Denis Lehane follows a rum-runner in Florida towards the end of prohibition, and the conflicts he has with other gangs and rival smugglers.
Related home video titles:
Almost all gangster movies will have comparable content issues: The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, and Road to Perdition are some good examples of solid gangster films with similar issues surrounding violence and profanity. Widows showcases women involved in organized crime in a modern setting.
If you’re looking for family-friendly movies about female empowerment, we would suggest Mulan, Hidden Figures, On the Basis of Sex, Bend It Like Beckham, Suffragette, A League of their Own, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.