Review: The Boss

Directed by: Ben Falcone
Written by: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy, Steve Mallory
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Kathy Bates, Kristen Schaal
Released: April 14, 2016
Grade: C

The Boss
As a huge fan of The Simpsons, I remember the episode in series 8 where Mr Burns goes broke.  He moves in with Smithers, turns to Lisa for help, starts doing work for the community, and quickly regains his fortune.  Well, that’s almost the exact same premise for the new Melissa McCarthy movie, The Boss.

The film is quick is portray her character, Michelle Darnell, as a business tycoon with no interest in anyone else but herself.  She’s the 47th most wealthy woman in the United States and she proclaims that she’s so wealthy, that she paid for Destiny’s Child to get back together only so she could split them up again.

Her ego is as big as her bank balance.  On the wall behind her office desk is a giant painting of herself surrounded by magazine covers that also feature her image.  When her loyal assistant (Bell) asks for a raise, she uses a litany of excuses to avoid the subject.  It’s not that she can’t afford it.  It’s just that she’s a jerk.

Lo and behold, all is lost when Michelle is found guilty of insider trading.  She was dobbed in by a man (Dinklage) who was once her lover but is now a business rival.  She spends 4 months in a low-security prison and on being released, finds all her assets either taken or frozen.  She doesn’t even have a home to live in.

No one is willing to lend a helping hand.  It’s no surprise given her cruel nature.  It falls upon her assistant, Claire, to offer a place in her home on an old sofa bed.  In return, she has to help out around the house.  That includes taking Claire’s daughter, Rachel (Anderson), to a Dandelions meeting (it’s a kind of scout thing).

It’s here where the light bulbs switch on and Michelle realises how she can reinvigorate herself.  The Dandelion girls sell cookies but the product is terrible, the margins are poor, and very little funding is raised.  She pulls together her own group of teenage girls and gets them selling delicious brownies using dubious sales techniques.  She takes a cut, the girls take a cut, and the profits can be put to a good use.

Melissa McCarthy has a decent strike rate when it comes to comedy.  She earned an Academy Award nomination for Bridesmaids and followed that up with hilarious performances in films such as The Heat and Spy.

Most would regard this as a failure though.  The writers, including McCarthy, have failed to create conflict or tension that feels credible.  As an example, there’s a scene where Michelle and her crew get involved in a street fight.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense given these girls are well-tempered either side of this sequence. 

Further, the screenplay tries too hard to have us sympathise with Michelle because of her difficult upbringing.  By that I mean she was raised in an orphanage and was rejected by several groups of parents (this is all covered in the first 2 minutes).  It’s tough to swallow given how awful she is throughout much of the film.  I won’t spoil the finale but that itself is too over-the-top ridiculous.