Many of us who live in crowded cities like New York, with ever shrinking living spaces, have attended (or thrown our own) packed, cramped house parties, teeming with people we barely know, many of whom have a tenuous (at best) relationship with the host. In such situations many of us (I know I do) often hang out in the kitchen, where the food, and more importantly, the alcohol, are in close proximity.
Among its other admirable qualities, Ishai Setton's third feature The Kitchen, which recently had its world premiere as the closing night film of the 17th annual Gen Art Film Festival in New York City, nicely captures the barely controlled chaos of a house party. Set entirely in the titular room, The Kitchen skillfully choreographs its ensemble cast through a series of farcical episodes, with a smooth dynamism that is consistently engaging.
The Kitchen takes place on the occasion of Jennifer's (Laura Prepon) 30th birthday party, preparations for which are spearheaded by her best friend Stan (Matt Bush). Jennifer isn't in the best mood for celebrating, however, having just left her art gallery job and facing an uncertain future striking out on her own and starting her own gallery. More traumatically, she has just broken up with her caddish boyfriend Paul (Bryan Greenberg), after finding out he's been cheating on her with one of her friends, who of course shows up later at her party. Meanwhile, Jennifer's slacker sister Penny (Dreama Walker) announces she's pregnant and is debating whether to keep the baby, while Jennifer's roommate Kenny (Tate Ellington) floats throughout, exhibiting generally weird behavior. Stan frantically tries to keep together the party planning that quickly spirals out of his control, dealing with such crises as dueling house bands and (horror of horrors) a misspelled birthday cake. It soon becomes clear that Stan harbors a secret wish break out of the friend zone with Jennifer, and the birthday party may be his big chance to do so. An already chaotic night becomes even more so when Paul shows up at the party, continuing his philandering ways under the noses of both Jennifer and the friend he cheated on her with.
There's definitely a sitcom quality to much of this, which is not at all a bad thing. And certainly Laura Prepon, formerly of That 70's Show, has much experience in this regard, which puts her in good stead for the comic timing necessary for her role, which she quite ably essays. The rest of the large cast are all quite appealing, notably Dreama Walker, who impresses as the sarcastic sister, demonstrating her range in a very different role from her much more dramatic breakout one in Compliance, as well as Matt Bush as the friend carrying a silent romantic torch. A lively blueprint for it all is provided by Jim Beggarly's funny script; Josh Silfen's cinematography and Valerie Green's production design work well to give the film's limited space a visually varied look. And at a fleet-footed 78 minutes, The Kitchen, unlike some party guests, doesn't wear out its welcome.
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