Sunday, April 10, 2016
Review: THE BOSS
I do not own the above image. Copyright Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
What is the most miserable type of movie to watch? To many, movies with disturbing images, like torture porn or Lars Von Trier films, are seen as endurance tests or feats of nerve & even artistry. To others, a movie with a depressing subject, like SCHINDLER’S LIST and SPOTLIGHT, is brutal to sit through without feeling depressed feelings afterwards. While I can’t defend the former, the latter classification of movies features some the best movies of the past few decades, such as the two movies listed above. But to me, unfunny comedies are the ultra-marathon equivalent of endurance tests in the movie world. And THE BOSS is among the roughest ones to sit through.
Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is one of the most successful businesswomen on the planet. That is until she’s busted for insider trading, serving prison time & having her assets frozen in the meantime. Once released, the only person who doesn’t outright reject Darnell is her former tortured personal assistant Claire (Bell), who reluctantly opens her home to her. How can Michelle get back on her feet?
You get this sense of doom from the first scene of the movie where we see young Michelle being returned to a Catholic orphanage three times during her childhood with Margo Martindale playing the nun in charge. Michelle has developed quite a mouth on her while Ms. Martindale has to just stand there, the script rendering her helpless. This opening exchange is a perfect representation of what THE BOSS is: a good concept that consistently & almost exclusively goes for the lowest common denominator instead of using the situation created to make bigger, specialized joke. There are numerous opportunities just like this one. After a show in Chicago, a conversation about Claire getting a raise into a joke about goofy Michelle’s face looks carrying the conversation while getting her teeth whitened with a dental apparatus in her mouth. The one scene that takes place on the grounds of the prison isn’t about the posh lifestyle behind the barbed wire but just serves as an excuse for Michelle to assault her financial advisor with a tennis ball. The rivalry between the groups of young female scouts should be about strengthening the skills of future successful professional women. Instead, Michelle & the opposing alpha-mom exchange vulgarities (not vulgar insults, just the choice four-letter-words) that culminates in a poorly-shot streetfight. Nothing says female empowerment like a grown woman clotheslining a preteen girl.
Bell’s Claire is a frumpily dressed single mom, a fact which she reminds every person she interacts with during the movie, exists purely as a punching bag for Darnell. Their biggest confrontation comes not from the previously mentioned raise, not during the process of creating the homemade brownie company but from her wardrobe choice for a date. The fight soon devolves into a minute long shot of McCarthy & Bell swatting each other’s boobs. How hilarious! For the record, I laughed one time at the most throwaway but least dirty joke in the movie.
Where THE BOSS completely loses me is in the third act turn that begins with a misunderstanding between Claire & Michelle after a meeting with Renault (Dinklage), Michelle’s former lover turned business rival whose presence lingers for the entire movie like a fart in a near-empty theatre. From that meeting, the movie spins completely out of control, ending in a sequence that belongs in a bad version of last year’s SPY. But before the movie gets there, Darnell goes to find herself with a person only alluded to briefly in one scene early in the movie. The meeting between Darnell & this character makes you like her even less than you did before because it makes Michelle’s intentions that much less genuine & heartfelt.
Then come the last two “jokes”. The first is a callback to an earlier moment & serves as a cheap ending to a subplot that hadn’t been referenced in at least 45 minutes. The second “joke” is actually a gag reel over the end credits. A staple of the 1990s, the gag reel should have been put to rest after Pixar added such scenes to their end credits in a few of their early movies in the late 90s & early 2000s. But what’s worse than actually adding it to begin with is that it’s not funny at all; just one last bankrupt attempt to get people to laugh at cheap antics.
My patience for Melissa McCarthy is running pretty thin. I’m sure she loves her husband Ben Falcone, who directed & co-wrote this movie with her. I’m sure in real life that they love each other & are soulmates. But their professional collaborations, first with TAMMY (full disclosure: I haven’t seen yet despite it being on HBO for about a year) and now with THE BOSS, are complete failures as comedies with bottom of the barrel jokes, choppy editing to remove jokes that epically failed and characters who aren’t worth our time. A complete waste of time, resources & talent.