By: Akram Shaban
After viewing The Boss, I admitted that I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Melissa McCarthy put on an outstanding performance as the bankrupt billionaire Michelle Darnell. I thought her willingness to cross certain boundaries to achieve a comedic effect was admirable. This is mostly a reflection of the derogatory, insult-filled script that was not afraid to shout out obscenities in front of children (and at times have the children themselves take part in the expletives battles). It makes me wonder how producers convince the parents of child actors to consent to something like that. I guess there is a price for everything. Which brings up a point that critics have undoubtedly scorned about by now: how much was McCarthy offered to accept such a terrible role? Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie and all its social taboo transcending goodness. But should you see it?
Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnell in The Boss
When it comes to comedies (especially American ones), everyone has a different taste. You may laugh uncontrollably at something that someone else would rather see burn in a bonfire fuelled by the scorched copies of its DVD’s…which is ok. Some people are more offended by some things. Others dislike certain kinds of jokes etc. So all I have to do is describe the kind of comedy The Boss attempts to deliver and to embody, opine about whether it succeeded or not, and leave the rest to you.
If you’ve seen the trailers, then you pretty much know what you’d be going into. The trailers show McCarthy’s character, Michelle, engaging in the white collar crime known as insider trading. Afterwards, she is exposed and spends a brief period of time in prison (which is sadly not entirely far from reality for these crimes), with all her property seized. She’s then released and invites herself to the home of her former assistant Claire, played by Kristen Bell. That’s where she learns that Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) is involved with the Girl Scouts, who sell cookies and other baked goods. This revelation stimulates Michelle’s business expertise and inspires her to begin a brownie sales empire. And, of course, she encounters some peculiar obstacles along the way.
What the trailers don’t show is that the movie lingers for a while before it reaches the points they show. It takes its time setting up the concept, with some back story for eliciting the obligatory emotional appeal (the “serious” bits) later on in the story. The movie also spends some time with Claire, establishing her motives and interests in the whole thing. I actually liked that. It didn’t rush to the “good part” and instead inserted some jokes leading up to the main event.
Kristen Bell (L) as Claire and Melissa McCarthy (R) as Michelle in The Boss
The jokes mostly follow the formula of Michelle taking something too personally and engaging in some creative trash-talking banter with another character. The jokes aren’t even random, they are part of her character. She believes that people would walk all over you if you don’t keep your guard up. So she’s not shy to call a complete stranger some words that would have me using a lot of asterisks if I were to list them. Sometimes you would think that a joke will be made and the scene would move on, only to realize that it’s going to keep going. The “boob touching” scene is an example. It’s a hit or miss type of comedy. Some would call it uninventive and lazy. I think it’s funny in moderation. But the movie did depend heavily on those jokes and the quality suffers as a result.
If you’re the type to be offended by excessive swearing and sexual innuendos, especially in front of children, then the movie is not for you. A lot of the scenes involve McCarthy and someone else fighting about something, sometimes physically, at one point leading to a Girl Scout rumble. I can definitely see why some would find this sort of thing inappropriate, and it is not entirely indicated by the trailers.
As far as the climax of the movie goes, it’s, unfortunately, the same sort of rushed finale you see in comedies nowadays. Some half-assed jokes and two characters reducing their rhetorical quarrels to fighting and wrestling is what you’re offered. I wouldn’t even call it slapstick comedy. It’s “look at those ridiculous adults do goofy things” comedy. But the presence of Peter Dinklage as the antagonist Ron (or is it Renault?) made it somewhat amusing to watch.
I personally did not anticipate the extent to which the subject matter was taken. I believe that may be the reason why many would not like the movie (other than simply not finding it funny). But I think what made the comedy work for me was the bluntness of the dialogue combined with the transparency of the characters. Honest, blunt, and a complete lack of or disregard for one’s self-awareness. So I’ll base my score for The Boss not on whether it met the standards of critics with no sense of humour. Instead I’m basing it on how much the movie made me laugh, and how much it didn’t.
While an over dependency on one formula for comedy and some over the top dialogue set the film back, The Boss still managed to make a full theatre laugh, thus receiving a C- (5.5/10).