Monday, April 28, 2014

Jim Beggarly Writes A Decent Character Study Where Nothing Happens In The Kitchen

The Good: Decent characters, Good acting
The Bad: Virtually nonexistent plot, Unremarkable direction/visual stylings
The Basics: An unambitious indie film, The Kitchen is a good study of late twentysomethings/early thirty year olds set during a party where nothing really happens.

Before Laura Prepon’s acting career rebounded from a post-That 70’s Show slump with her edgy role in the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black (season one is reviewed here!), she did some indie films. One of the most understated and least commercially successful was The Kitchen. The Kitchen has a very young cast and it’s impressive for the sheer amount of talent that is evident in the film packed with conversations but no real action. Laura Prepon and Dreama Walker (who was losing Don’t Trust The B----- In Apartment 23 when The Kitchen was being released) headline The Kitchen.

The Kitchen is notable in that the entire film is set within the set of the titled room of the house of the protagonist. This forces director Ishai Setton to get the performers to emote with their faces and he actually captures most of the emotional expressions and nuances of the performers. Unfortunately, The Kitchen is so insular and cramped with characters that the viewer becomes desperate for something, anything, real to happen but the experience is much more of a character study that starts, ends, and exists within the very limited confines of the initial premise of the film. Unlike a movie like Magnolia (reviewed here!) where the film is packed with characters, The Kitchen does not develop the characters and it does not go anywhere. The Kitchen is also dreadfully short, so the characters just detail more of their original characterization, whereas Magnolia is long, moves the characters forward, and things (eventually) happen.

On the morning of Jennifer’s thirtieth birthday party, Jennifer breaks up with her boyfriend of two and a half years, Paul. Her friends descend upon the house, including Stan who is not secretly in love with Jennifer, Pam (Paul’s best friend), and Kim and Amanda who both slept with Paul. Penny, Jennifer’s sister, is around and tries to push Stan to either out himself or admit his love for Jennifer. Penny is pregnant and getting an abortion next week and one of Jennifer’s friends is pissed that Stan hired a band other than his own for the event.

As various people come in and out of the kitchen, including a mentally unbalanced photographer who is off his medication, they explore their feelings, desire, and relationships with one another. This includes Penny taking Jennifer’s defense when Paul shows up and she witnesses him playing both Kim and Amanda. Jennifer spends most of the evening trying to woo an artist to her new gallery that she is impulsively opening while she also attempts to hook up with anyone to feel like she is no longer in a slump.

The Kitchen is one of those movies that is tough to discuss; little actually happens. The elements that are established early on all come to resolution in the most predictable and safe possible ways. This means that for a film that talks about abortion quite a bit in the beginning does not result in an abortion at the end (instead, there is a “true love conquers all” type storyline that comes largely out of nowhere for its resolution) and when one artist falls through, Jennifer Parker discovers the only other artist who actually appears in the movie will meet her needs. The rest of the movie is just conversations.

And, like most vignettes at a party, the conversations in The Kitchen are interesting enough, but it is hardly great or ambitious filmmaking or storytelling. That doesn’t make The Kitchen bad, it just makes it unremarkable. As one might expect most of the characters are absolutely ridiculously good looking, the house is furnished in a way that is pretty remarkable considering the protagonist has to have at least two roommates to afford the place.

The acting in The Kitchen is good, but even Laura Prepon does not wow the viewer in the film. To be fair to Prepon, those who have seen her in That 70’s Show and Orange Is The New Black have seen her play characters both rational and angry, so Jennifer does not offer her anything truly new to express. Dreama Walker is good as Penny, but also is unremarkable given the lack of depth the character is given.

The result is a well-made, conceptually interesting film with no flair or reason to truly recommend the work.

For other works with Catherine Reitman, please visit my reviews of:
Friends With Benefits
Post Grad
I Love You, Man
Knocked Up
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Thank You For Smoking
Space Jam


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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