The ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ star is a perfect next ingredient for ‘The Kitchen.’
It’s a good time to be Elisabeth Moss. In the last year alone, she racked up awards for her leading role in the hit Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale, reprised her role as Detective Robin Griffin in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl, and had a memorable supporting turn in Swedish Oscar nominee The Square. Now she’s set to join Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy in what looks to be the most badass film of 2019, The Kitchen.
Set in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen — which this New Yorker honestly thought was only ever referred to as “The Kitchen” by the leather-clad weirdos of Marvel’s various Netflix series — The Kitchen tells the story of Irish mob wives who take over their husbands’ businesses after the men are arrested by the FBI. The women discover that they are naturals at running criminal enterprises, and start to wonder if they’re better off leaving their husbands behind bars and running Hell’s Kitchen themselves.
The film is being adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic book series of the same name by Andrea Berloff, Oscar-nominated co-writer of Straight Outta Compton, and it will also mark Berloff’s directorial debut. A woman writing and directing a mob movie centered on women finding empowerment? Sign me up!
The story sounds pretty dark, which is why the announcement of the casting of Haddish and McCarthy was initially greeted with surprise, albeit also with a tinge of intrigue. Haddish is currently riding high off the success of Girls Trip and scene-stealing appearances on SNL and at the Oscars, while McCarthy seems to be making up for a few recent bombs by packing her slate with enough upcoming projects to make your head spin (including another dramatic role in the biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Perhaps she’s realized that in order to have longevity in Hollywood, you have to prove you’re more than a one-trick pony.
Both actresses are massively talented and capable of making audiences literally roll on the floor laughing, but we’re yet to see either of them showcase the kind of dramatic chops one would expect to be on full display in a mob drama. That’s not to say I don’t think that they can handle it. After all, if you can do what Haddish did to a grapefruit in Girls Trip, you’re clearly talented enough to do anything. But it’s a daring move to announce such a gritty-sounding movie as The Kitchen with two comedians in the lead roles.
Enter Elisabeth Moss, who will next be seen in a film adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, co-starring Saoirse Ronan and Annette Bening. Not that Moss needs to prove herself as an actress at this point in her career, but does it get any more intense than Chekhov? By adding Moss to the cast, The Kitchen rounds out its trio of leads with someone incredibly experienced in dramatic roles, and those with a feminist slant at that. And if you’ve seen The Square, you know that Moss also has a gift for comic timing that doesn’t get utilized nearly enough. Fingers crossed that The Kitchen has a streak of black humor running through it that maximizes its multitalented trio of leading ladies.
I’m now intrigued to see what men will step up to play second fiddle to these awesome women and if their roles will be as thankless as the female roles are in mob dramas. Too often are women cast only as the shrill supporting characters in these stories, as though they are inherently incapable of portraying complicated, violent, criminal masterminds. I love the films of Martin Scorsese as much as the next film fan, but goodness knows he rarely does women characters any favors. His mob movies and so many others are so resolutely masculine that one can almost smell the testosterone dripping off the screen.
However, The Kitchen promises to turn that status quo upside-down and shake it vigorously. After all, who needs some lazy gender-swapping to put women at the center of genres traditionally focused on men when you have people like Berloff running with original projects like this? If done well, The Kitchen should be a breath of fresh air better than any ever inhaled in the titular neighborhood.