The Boss opens with a short montage that travels from the 70’s through to the 90’s, showing the difficult life that has shaped and moulded Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy). She may be damaged because of her past rejections, but it seems to make her into a driven business woman who is skeptical of the nuclear family. In her rise above her orphanage history she turns into a narcissistic megalomaniac as an adult. She scratches and fights her way to the top of the corporate ladder and in the process comes to believe she is impervious to the law. This arrogance leads to her arrest for insider trading and an eventual stay in prison. During the four month incarceration, Michelle manages to lose all of her corporate empire which leaves her penniless and desperate for help. After her release from prison she searches for anyone who is willing to assist her and finds this lifeline in her former secretary, Claire (Kristen Bell). With the help of this single mother and her daughter, Michelle reintroduces herself back into the business society through a venture that gets her back into the game. The only things standing in her way are her own personal weaknesses and her enemies from the past who do not want to see her back on top.
Each decade introduced in the opening montage brought about different memories of years gone by, especially of the quality of comedies from those decades. Director Ben Falcone (Tammy) seems to have channeled some of the worst comedies of the 1980’s with The Boss. He provides a fantastic opening for McCarthy to portray the business mogul as an inspirational speaker which provides a whisper of promise for the film. Her dance routine (Yes, she has a dance routine) and speech were spot on for what is celebrated in this age of materialism. The problem is that this scene proves to be one of the only humorous moments. What unfolds is a reliance of Falcone on McCarthy’s improvisation skills as a means of dialogue. This writing style leaves the rest of the cast to merely stand around gap-mouthed and confused, which becomes tiresome and boring.
The writing is where the weaknesses are greatly exposed, beginning with the central plot hook. Michelle Darnell’s dramatic fall from grace is needed for the sake of the storyline, but proves to be exceptionally unrealistic. How is it that she is brilliant enough to rise to the level of success that she does, but during the four months she is incarcerated she becomes completely oblivious to her empire crumbling? This seems to go against her character and does not set up believability in the storyline. Another blindspot is the naivety of Claire to allow Michelle to come back into her life after her treatment prior to her fall and then to allow her to influence her daughter. Her former boss’ influence on her daughter is repulsive and goes against the character of Bell’s role as a loving mother. Then to include foul-mouthed girl scout-like child as Michelle’s primary vehicle to rise out of the ashes takes the level of bad taste across the line. Falcone attempts endearing moments in his writing, but like the majority of the comedy, it never quite reaches its goal.
The Boss will not be known for its original script or brilliant comedic timing, but it should be remembered for Falcone’s inability to capitalise on excellent acting talent. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Kristen Bell (Frozen) are relegated to setting up McCarthy’s jokes. Emmy Award winning Margo Martingale (The Americans) and Academy Award winner Kathy Bates (Misery) are left with brief cameos that fail to utilise their talents. Yet, the most egregious waste of talent is in McCarthy herself. She has proven to be a force of comedic and dramatic talents and has become a cottage industry to herself. This cinematic venture does not capitalise on any of her abilities, but merely her physical comedy and her capacity to lay down a foul-mouthed diatribe. It unfortunately moves her dangerously close to the Adam Sandler category of film making: comedians who become lazy in production value and rely heavily on the prat fall and toilet humour for their delivery. The Boss proves to be an unfortunate waste of McCarthy’s abilities and leaves this film with little to celebrate or recommend.
After the first few minutes of this film it was evident that the McCarthy/Falcone combination have few original ideas. For all of those who go along to The Boss, the joke is on you.
Bio and image Russell is an American ex-pat who has been transplanted in his new home of Sydney. He is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and the blog Russelling Reviews. He moderates events called Reel Dialogue (reeldialogue.com) which connects the film industry with the general public.