Melissa McCarthy has become almost a film industry in herself. After her television success with Mike and Molly, she had a major hit with 2011’s Bridesmaids, which proved to be a break through for most of its leads. McCarthy has followed it up with big successes with Identity Thief, The Heat, and Spy, as well as critical acclaim for Tammy and St Vincent. It’s hard to think of anyone (except perhaps her Spy co-star and Snooty Ushers’ favourite Jason Statham) who is delivering with that type of consistency. Her latest film sees her involved in the screenwriting, alongside her husband Ben Falcone, who also directs.
The Boss is Michelle Darnell, who we first meet being rejected by three different foster families and returned to her orphanage on three separate occasions. She finally tells the Mother Superior that she doesn’t need any family, and that she will make it on her own.
And she does! Darnell (now grown up into Melissa McCarthy) is giving a speech at a sold out arena, with a huge array of dancers backing her and hip hop star T-Pain (I had to look up who he is, yes, I’m old) as she puts on an elaborate performance. She gives a “get rich now” speech, shilling her various books and explaining that family only gets in the way, and that she became the 47th richest woman in the world without having a family.
Her single mother assistant Claire (Kirsten Bell) escorts her to a helicopter on the roof of her building, from which we see her rival Reanult (Peter Dinklage), who calls her and accuses her of using insider information to steal a huge deal he was working on. After a television interview goes badly wrong when Darnell’s mentor (a scathing Kathy Bates cameo) lets rips about her true feelings about Darnell, and a picture of the orphanage she grew up in is shown, Darnell is arrested for insider trading following a tip-off from Reanult.
Darnell is sent to jail, and has all of her assets seized. When she is released, she has
nowhere to go and no-one to call, apart from her former assistant Claire, who now has a
new job, and a potential new man in her life (Tyler Labine from Tucker & Dale vs Evil). Will the tough, take no prisoners Michelle Darnell be able to fit in to this new life? Does she still not need a family? Can she get revenge on Reanult? And will she find a way back to the top of the mountain?
Melissa McCarthy is on fine form as usual in this film. There are a few times when she is vulgar just for the shock value, but there is more to the character than just blue humour. At times the character feels like a sketch show character that is being stretched too far, but McCarthy’s performance holds it together. The rest of the film doesn’t really stand up to McCarthy’s standard however. Her comeback story is rushed, as is her loss of all of her assets, which is just too implausible. I think there was probably a longer version of the film that explains what exactly her business was, but that part seems very truncated here.
There are some good performances in the supporting cast (Dinklage is fun, and Kristen Schaal is always welcome) but most of them are very one note. Kristen Bell plays a particularly weak character, being a doormat for Michelle for most of the film. That would be ok in a certain type of film, but the end presents her as woman in charge of her destiny, and that isn’t really the story the film tells. She has very little agency to effect her outcome, simply following in the stronger lead character’s wake.
The Boss is an ok film. Comedies are always subjective: I laughed a good few times throughout, so I would recommend it, but I know others will probably dislike it. It feels like the Michelle Darnell character deserved better though. In the list of Melissa McCarthy comedy vehicles, this is one of the weaker ones.
Ghostbusters is up next for her. “Ok” will not be good enough then. No pressure.
The Boss is in cinemas now.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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