Talking Movies: The Kitchen, Lean on Pete and The Son

Spling reviews The Kitchen, Lean on Pete and The Son as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a crime drama, an adventure drama and a psychological thriller.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


When their husbands are incarcerated, several women decide to continue their criminal operation in New York’s district of Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s.

Writer-Director: Andrea Berloff

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss

– Following ‘Ocean’s 8’, ‘Widows’ and the remake of the ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘The Kitchen’ seems to be right on the money when it comes to the recent trend around female-led stories about teams.
– Embracing New York’s cultural melting pot that was Hell’s Kitchen in the ’70s, sporting a killer soundtrack and brandishing wardrobe to match the flamboyance of ‘American Hustle’, ‘The Kitchen’ should have been a surefire hit.
– While you get the impression they’re taking a run at it, this crime drama is dismally uninspired beyond the premise of women stepping up to seize power in a male-dominated underworld.
– While Elisabeth Moss is right at home in this gritty crime drama, comedy headliners Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish seem out of place.
– The screenplay has the kind of scope that would make you think it could be based on a true story, but the characters are thinly scripted.
– Struggling to win us over beyond our love for the charms of the lead cast, it’s a curious yet fairly uninvolving story that fails to leverage its star power.
– While the wives are competing in a hostile and traditionally male-dominated racket, there’s never any real sense of danger.
– You’d expect ‘The Kitchen’ to make more of its dark comedy undertones or play to the strengths of its cast, but it doesn’t flinch… flatlining in terms of laughs.
– While going headlong into drama and almost downplaying any element of comedy, ‘The Kitchen’ is tonally uneven.
– It just seems too easy and becomes routine as the coarse language comes to represent their street smarts.
– It’s not offensively bad, trying to honour its source material and nurture its talents, but amounts to a lot of gangster posing, muddled gender politics and hot air.

A flimsy 4 on the splingometer

Moving on to a film on Showmax…


A teenager gets a summer job working for a horse trainer and befriends the fading racehorse, Lean on Pete.

Writer-Director: Andrew Haigh

Stars: Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi and Travis Fimmel

– Lean on Pete is like a blend of Into the Wild and Boyhood, backed by a strong ensemble and led by a sensitive performance from Plummer
– much like Sean Penn’s soulful and spirited film, the story follows a young man who leaves everything behind to embark on a cross-country adventure
– young, naïve and trying to find his place in the world, he encounters a number of influential folks on his meandering journey
– trying to stay a step ahead of social services and protecting his old racehorse he relies on the kindness of others and petty crimes
– artful yet subtle in its approach to storytelling, it adopts a similar feel to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood
– while covering a much shorter period of time, there are some parallels from its teenage subject and sense of realism to its handling of relationships and growing pains
– Lean on Pete has a haunting and wistful quality, dealing with the tragedy of a runaway who is forced to live by his wits in an effort to reach an uncertain harbour
– serving as a character portrait of a boy earning his stripes, reaching emotional maturity and learning to cope with loss, it’s a thought-provoking, well-balanced and even poetic slice-of-life
– it may be a bit slow moving for some, but offers the best of both worlds for those who enjoyed Into the Wild and Boyhood

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a film on Netflix…


An artist struggles to rebuild his life after hard times.

Director: Sebastián Schindel

Stars: Joaquín Furriel, Martina Gusman and Heidi Toini

– There are a number of thrillers centred on the prospect of new life or a parent’s attempt to safeguard their little one
– Argentinian thriller The Son blends both as a father becomes alienated from his new wife after she falls pregnant and hires a midwife
– with a timeline reminiscent of Memento, the present and future cascade as the story flips from one reality to the next
– while confusing at first, this choice adds to the sense of alienation and becomes easier to distinguish as you pick up on clues
– The Son may be a small and fairly claustrophobic film, but its subtle approach is welcome even if elusive
– tipping the hat to the likes of Hitchcock and Kubrick, Schindel has style and operates with flair
– while some elements are familiar, The Son remains suspenseful forcing its audience into the same jilted guessing game
– this is a fine production and classy affair with a tight ensemble under Furriel
– the psychological thriller will appeal to you more if you connect with its distressed theme and unlock its secrets, however it is restrained by its alienating tone and perceived lack of accessibility

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

THE KITCHEN… while noble and stellar, this slow-grinding crime drama is miscast, uneven and uninspired… A flimsy 4!

LEAN ON PETE… while familiar, it remains a beautifully shot, wistful and well-acted coming-of-age adventure drama… A solid 7!

THE SON… this sharp and subtle psychological thriller is paradoxical and alienating to a fault… A satisfactory 6!

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