With their criminal husbands suddenly out of the picture, a small crew of desperate women (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss) decide to step into their shoes, pick up where they left off and prove their mettle in a brutal realm. So reads a potential synopsis of Andrea Berloff‘s The Kitchen (Warner Bros., 8.9), an apparently non-comedic period crime drama set in Hell’s Kitchen and based on a Vertigo comic book miniseries by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle.
Marketing slogan suggestion #1: “This may sound like Widows II, but that was 21st Century Chicago and this is midtown Manhattan in the late ’70s. So in a way we were first even though we’re second.”
Marketing slogan suggestion #2: “Those Widows women were following in the footsteps of three very tough Manhattan forebears, and they didn’t even know it!”
No matter how you sell it, audiences are naturally going to say “this again?”
Widows was born a little over four years ago (March of ’15) when it was announced that Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn would adapt the British ’80s TV series into a feature with McQueen directing. Two years later (February ’17) Berloff was hired by New Line execs to direct The Kitchen, which she’d previously adapted into a screenplay.
Widows began principal photography in on 5.8.17. The Kitchen began principal photography on 5.7.18. Widows premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on on 9.8.18 and opened three months later. The Kitchen, as noted, will open on 8.9.19.
The only thing could possibly save The Kitchen would be if it were filmed as a black comedy. With McCarthy and Haddish in the leads, that would seem like a natural way to go. But the trailer indicates that it’s mostly a straight violent drama (the musical theme is “Paint It Black”) with a few ironic asides (“What do you wear to a mob meeting? Do you get dressed up?”)
Put another way, how could Berloff and her producers, Michael De Luca and Marcus Viscidi, have decided against making a black comedy version of more or less the same plot, i.e., “women criminals muscle their way into a brutally tough, all-male arena”? In what galaxy could they have decided “it doesn’t matter if we wind up looking like Widows II: Manhattan Moms in the marketing materials — we’ll carve out our own identity regardless”?