If you look at the list of the twenty highest earning Hollywood actresses, one name sticks out. People like Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson and Kristen Stewart are all talented performers and deserve the success they’ve worked to achieve, but they are all young and slim. The older women who feature, like Julia Roberts, began their careers in the same way; as pretty women. Melissa McCarthy though, clocking in at number three, does not conform to the conventions of a successful film actress. She is not classically beautiful, she didn’t become famous until she was forty and she is not a size eight. This has to be considered a win for normal women everywhere.
The thing that McCarthy does have is the ability to make people laugh. Her regular shtick, shown off in films like Bridesmaids, This is Forty and The Heat, is being the motor-mouthed, potty-mouthed, aggressive hard ass but in this new film she is trying something a little different; the language is still colourful, but she has lost some of that trademark anger.
This film has McCarthy as Michelle Darnell, a direct, very controlling and very wealthy industry boss who loses everything when she is imprisoned for insider trading. With nowhere to go on her release she moves in with put-upon ex-assistant Claire, played by Kristen Bell, and along with Claire’s daughter they start up a profit making Brownie troupe. Claire’s comedy dating and Peter Dinklage as an idiosyncratic business rival are thrown into the mix.
Whether or not you find The Boss funny will depend on your sense of humour but it is probably going to divide people. If you like shock gags about vaginas or if you laugh at the sight of preteen girls punching each other then you will be well served. If not then it could be a very long ninety nine minutes.
The critics have been largely unimpressed but the film will no doubt find an audience. Kristen Bell plays the straight woman and Peter Dinklage’s character is so broadly comedic that it wouldn’t be out of place between trapeze acts in a big top. Only in this case, randomly, it is samurai swords being waved around, rather than custard pies. The plot is lazy, the humour often forced but this is McCarthy’s show and she just about carries it.
The Boss is not sophisticated or clever but McCarthy is trying to do something different and the film is so relentless with the gags that some of them hit.
Review by Mark Waters.