All is not well for Jennifer (Laura Prepon) on her 30th birthday. Despite her friend Stan (Matt Bush), who not-so-secretly has a Duckie-style crush on her, throwing a big birthday bash for her, Jennifer’s life is in turmoil. She’s got a new art gallery that may be lacking an artist to fill it and she recently broke up with her boyfriend, Paul (Bryan Greenberg), since he’s been not-so-subtly horn-dogging it up with two of her “friends” (Pepper Binkley and Amber Stevens). On top of that, Jennifer’s sister Penny (Dreama Walker) is dealing with a major life decision and both are stuck in the center of the birthday bash when they’d rather be anywhere else; for all involved, it’s going to be a long night.
Ishai Setton’s feature film The Kitchen is a simplistic, quality dramedy with an outstanding ensemble cast. I say “simplistic” because the film predominantly takes place within Jennifer’s kitchen during the party, or from the point-of-view of someone in the kitchen looking out. In other words, the camera is either in the kitchen looking into immediate adjacent areas, or out of the kitchen but aiming back at the characters in the kitchen; hence, the title of the film is widely appropriate.
In that way, with one main location, the film has the feel of a play, with the kitchen being the stage where different characters come in and out of the scene. While there’s always the risk of a bit of cinematic claustrophobia, The Kitchen manages to avoid that pitfall. There were more than a few moments where I was convinced that we had left the kitchen entirely, in body or focus, but it turned out to not be the case. Basically, the movement of all the characters, and the narrative, in and out flows so smoothly in the edit that it feels like a far more dynamic setting than it might initially seem on paper or in premise.
Speaking of the characters, my oh my are there quite a few of them. While I think the above mentioned cast are the main focal points for the narrative, there’s so many other characters involved that it gets, at times, to be a little difficult to focus in on any one throughline. Still, most of the people who cross the camera, and say something, have a payoff at some point, so in the end no one is all that extraneous to the story; it just sometimes gets overwhelming.
Still, with the cast in this film, it’d be hard not to give everyone their moment. While Prepon and Walker do the majority of the dramatic heavy lifting, no one wastes their moment or moments. Matt Bush’s Stan, for example, while I likened him to Pretty in Pink‘s Duckie, manages to portray that role with more of a defeatist subtlety than obnoxious advances. Stan has obviously been rebuked for so long that it’s almost like it doesn’t matter if he and Jennifer ever get together, he just knows no other way to be.
Overall, The Kitchen is an entertaining dialogue-fest, set in one location, with a cast that brings their best to every scene. Because of the talent on display, and the way the film’s editing and direction fades into a more naturalistic background, for the most part you just get caught up in the film. In that way, it’s like you’re at the party with everyone else, just sitting quietly in the corner observing. Which, you know, is a little creepy there, you. You should at least say hello to someone…
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