Based on its story, The Kitchen fits perfectly into the feminist narrative. Three housewives of the 1970s, played by Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss, face a hard financial situation when their husbands, who made their livelihood by working for the Irish mafia, are being sent to jail.
The film presents a series of feminist issues when it shows the women’s struggle to support themselves and their families. We see discrimination on the job market, catcalling on the streets and friends who show a condescending attitude towards them.
It presents as three women who have never worked a day in their lives having zero chance to become independent. As their last resort, they go into the mobster-business by demanding protection fees from local shop owners, following in their husbands’ footsteps.
With incredibly quick change of scenes and personalities, the film starts to depict the newfound empowerment of the housewives as they becomel criminals and are finally able to have an income of their own. Without their partners’ control over their lives, they take matters into their own hands, learning how to protect themselves and lead a successful business.
From a feminist perspective, the story could be liberating and impressive if the change in characters’ behaviour was not unbelievably sudden. Elisabeth Moss’ character, Claire Walsh, had been abused for years before she gets the chance to break out from oppression, and once free, her character immediately transforms into an empowered, confident and ruthless individual.
Beyond rapid change in characterisation, the direction of the film also focuses on rushing the storyline instead of investing in touching and detail-oriented pictures.
Scenes jump from one to the other too quickly and often the film feels too pressed towards its end neglecting any deeper exploration of personal relationships, conflicts or struggles.
Despite these criticisms, the clever, non-black-and-white depiction of the empowerment of these housewives is entertaining as they are forced to make difficult choices between family and business as the film progresses. Set in the 1970s, the womens’ new found freedom creates a tense dynamic with their husbands that challenges the flaws in classic family models of that era. The comic book-based story shows us the tragedy of women in the ‘70s, for whom it was almost impossible to find a supportive partner and at the same time a successful, fulfilling life. It is a story definitely worth watching, but the director could have added depth to the emotional journeys of these characters.
Image: Danny Lyon via Flickr