Between Gilmore Girls and Ghostbusters, Melissa McCarthy continues to pick projects certain to keep her career rolling. I find the projects where she has more creative control more interesting, even if, like The Boss, the results are not entirely successful.
The Boss centers on the rise and fall, or fall and rise, of Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy), a business mogul who is like a cross between Suze Orman, Martha Stewart and Donald Trump (a la The Apprentice). After serving time for insider trading, Michelle crashes on the couch of her former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell). It does not take long for her to wear out her welcome, so Michelle is forced to take Claire’s daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson), to her Dandelions meeting. At the meeting, she is shocked by how much money the organization makes selling cookies, using the free labor of the girls, who see little benefit. Inspired by the experience, she founds Darnell’s Darlings, a girls’ organization selling brownies using Claire’s secret family recipe, and giving the girls ten percent commission and ten percent in a college savings account. The Darlings take off, helping Michelle re-establish herself, letting Claire quit her job, and getting them all into a turf war with the Dandelions. Meanwhile, the whole operation is threatened by Renault (Peter Dinklage), Michelle’s ex-boyfriend and rival, who is determined to take revenge for a decades-old grievance.
Like other projects helmed by McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone, The Boss is built around a funny character portrayed by McCarthy with full physical and emotional commitment to the part, but the plot does not work as well as the character. Individual scenes are very funny and the chemistry between the female leads sells the weird family dynamic between them. Once the movie gets to the part where it has to deliver on some stakes and bring the story to a conclusion, however, it begins to fall apart. All of the creative energy seems to have gone into the character development so that the plot comes out predictably, and not all that entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, character development is one of the most important aspects in a movie for me, but the story still has to work too.
That said, I did thoroughly enjoy the humor centered on aggressive women and their relationships. Like Bridesmaids, and some of McCarthy’s other films, the jokes do not penalize women for being tough or raunchy or ambitious. Instead, the humor is built on exaggerated language, some slapstick and characters calling each other out on their nonsense. It’s human, and funny, and mostly works.
Alongside McCarthy’s talent for physical comedy, the costume design by Wendy Chuck and makeup department lead by Kimberly Jones did a great job on the style of Michelle Darnell. Her wardrobe, at once chic and dated and loud, was key to the humor in the character. That she almost always wears turtlenecks or scarves pulled up to her earlobes, so we never see her neck, paired with her very specific short red haircut, caricatured the sort of personality that Michelle is meant to represent so well that it carried the humor through to more serious scenes and the latter parts where the screenplay start to falter.
The Boss represents the continued evolution of McCarthy’s career, showing that she can create a funny, over-the-top character without resorting to cheap jokes about her weight or gross-out humor. Instead she’s funny, physical, and a comedic sort of glamorous. Although I like the creative control she and Falcone have and cheer on their success, I would also like to see more nuanced and compelling storytelling that lasts beyond the setup of their characters. I rate The Boss 2.5/5 stars.
The Boss was written by Melissa McCarthy, Steve Mallory, and Ben Falcone, who directed. It runs 99 minutes and is rated R for sexual content, language, and brief drug use.
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