When it comes to gangster films, female characters usually fall into one of two categories. If they are any sort of prominence within the narrative, they usually fall within the romantic or familial label: wife/girlfriend/mistress or the sister/mother/ daughter. If they are not prominent within the narrative, they are a nameless and faceless background character.
The new movie, The Kitchen attempts to change that. Based on the comic book of the same name, the film is set in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City in 1978. The Irish mob, known as the Westies, unofficially rules the neighborhood. When three of their members are sent to jail, their wives take their places within the mob organization.
Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) is a devoted wife and mother. Ruby O’Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) is treated like an outsider because she is an African-American woman married to a Caucasian man. Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) has been knocked around by her husband more times than she can count.
Not only must the women contend with opposition from the men, they must also content with the fact they are breaking the law.
What I hate is that this movie has so much potential going for it. It has a great cast and a narrative, that if written well, could be compelling. Instead, this movie falls flat on it’s face.
Any artist who is working toward the goal of earning their living via their art will often refer to the following quote by Thomas Edison:
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
But even with that 99% perspiration, success is not always guaranteed.
In the early 1990’s, writer Lee Israel‘s career was in the toilet. Unable to maintain another form of employment and living in New York City, she started forging and selling letters from famous writers who have passed on. Things went well until the law was onto her scheme. Her story is told in the 2008 memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger and the movie, Can You Ever Forgive Me? starring Melissa McCarthy that was released earlier this year.
I loved this book. Lee Israel was a woman who pulled no punches and meant every word that she said. While the way she brought in income was not exactly legally or morally sound, the woman had guts. She created fiction in a way that was still writing, even if she broke a few rules along the way.
The dream for many writers to become successful and earn their living solely via their pen or their computer. The reality is that only a small percentage of writers reach that level of fame and success. The rest of us have to earn our income via a regular job and write in the evenings and on the weekends.
In the new movie, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (based upon the book of the same name), Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is a New York City based writer whose professional glory days are long gone. She is out of work and needs money fast. While doing research in the library for her next book, she finds a letter from a famous writer and sells it. This leads Lee down the path of forging letters of famous writers who have passed on. Her cohort in this deception is Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant). Though Lee is making bank, time is running out on her con game. Will she get caught and if she does, what will her punishment be?
Other reviewers have stated that it is Melissa McCarthy’s best performance since Bridesmaids. I couldn’t agree more. Lee is crass, rude and has an alcohol problem. She is grasping at straws in attempt to revive her career and is desperate enough to do something stupid/illegal to regain that career. If Lee brings the serious moments to this film, Jack brings in the jokes and the lighter moments, with a slightly adult and sardonic sense of humor.
I absolutely recommend it.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is presently in theaters.
From an early age, women are taught to conform. If we do not conform, we are labelled as outsiders and called names that are meant to shame us for our rebellion.
Earlier this year, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen published Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman. She writes about a number of women who by reputation have stepped out of what is considered to be a normal woman. The list of women profiled includes tennis star Serena Williams, actress Melissa McCarthy, Madonna and Hillary Clinton.
This book is one of my favorite books of 2017. I loved it because not only did it call out the b*llsh*t that women have to deal with on a daily basis, but it also honors the women who give a middle finger to conformity and choose to live as they want to.