Film Review: The Boss (MA15+) (USA, 2016)

After going out of her way to make herself seem as unappealing as possible in the misguided Tammy, Melissa McCarthy opts for the opposite effect in The Boss, prettying herself up considerably (at least physically) to play a power-hungry mogul who, against our better judgement, we can’t hate as much as we should due to the actress’s talent at making her larger-than-life creations strangely likeable. At a point in her career where she can choose to do pretty much whatever she desires, it is a little baffling that she continues to aim for the lowest common dominator but it’s a niche she’s comfortable in, and as the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Co-written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone (who also serves as director) The Boss sets up unlikely protagonist Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), all turtleneck and jewellery, as the queen of her own empire due to a loyal following from her self-help finance books and public speaking tours. Having garnered success off the backs of her former mentor Ida Marquette (Kathy Bates, in little more than an extended cameo) and former lover Ron (Peter Dinklage), Michelle coasts along utilizing inside trading to support her lavish lifestyle, though, as to be expected, she is caught for insider trading and sent to jail for 5 (rather comfortable) months.  With no home to retreat to or fortune to rely on, Michelle finds herself the ultimate charity case and comes knocking on the door of former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) who allows Michelle to find her feet again whilst she temporarily sets up shop on her sofa bed.

As the attitude-heavy Michelle befriends Claire’s precocious daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) and slides her way in to Rachel’s Girl Scout meetings, it doesn’t take long before Michelle is drafting her own plan to create a brownie business and earn some serious coin off Rachel and her scout comrades. As Claire and Rachel get close to Michelle and learn there’s a real person underneath all the profanity and insults (and McCarthy comes out with some doozies) the film smoothly sails hitting every predictable beat along the way, resulting in an adult-aimed comedy that seems too afraid to allow its hard-edged lead character to be truly unlikeable as it softens its mid-section with heart that makes the film feel a little too safe.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with that tactic but when the film ultimately enforces that greed is good, you can’t help but think The Boss would’ve been a more biting venture had it ran with the mean-streak we know McCarthy is capable of showcasing.

Even with its uneven tone The Boss delivers on big laughs with McCarthy’s usual timing and delivery proving a winning combo. Bell makes for a suitable straight-woman amongst the comedic chaos, Anderson is quite lovely, and Bates, though wasted, knocks it out with a winning scene where she rattles off a series of “affectionate” names for Michelle; though if we’re going for any scene involving the female-heavy cast that takes the cake, it would be the Anchorman-esque street battle between the opposing Girl Scout crews that walks away as the film’s highlight.  If there’s one major surprise though it’s Dinklage whose comic delivery is deliriously weird and entertainingly fascinating, and the only mistake the movie makes with him is that they don’t allow him in enough scenes to pull focus.


The Boss is in cinemas today.


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Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.