Melissa McCarthy is a two-man woman when it comes to her career. With writer/director Paul Feig, she’s found some of her greatest success, “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” and last year’s surprise, “Spy.” Then there’s her husband, Ben Falcone, a fellow alum of the Groundlings Comedy theater, with whom she co-wrote, and he directed, “Tammy,” and now “The Boss.”
While the Feig films are more tightly and traditionally structured, with a high joke density, the Falcone films have proved to be loose and profoundly weird, with room to indulge in strange bits and riffs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re in the tank for McCarthy’s specific brand of character-driven physical humor.
In “The Boss,” McCarthy plays Michelle Darnelle, a cold-blooded, no-holds-barred wheeler and dealer and the “47th wealthiest woman in America.” Michelle has a penchant for high turtlenecks, flowing tunics and dirty-mouthed smack talk honed in the halls of Wall Street.
She gets popped for insider trading by her lover- turned-nemesis Renault (Peter Dinklage), and after her time in the clink, ends up on the couch of her former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell). It’s there that she cooks up her new business venture with the help of Claire’s daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson) — starting up a girls’ troop, the Darnelle Darlings, selling brownies and giving the girls a cut of the profits. Hijinks ensue.
The structure of “The Boss” doesn’t quite work, and the transitions between acts are wonky. There are nuggets of hilarity to be found, but those bits are just bits, and don’t necessarily fit into a larger whole.
As a film, “The Boss” isn’t so boss. The writing doesn’t stand up to McCarthy’s talents, and the humor relies more on her delivery and physical commitment than on actual jokes. But it’s an opportunity to watch a comedic performer at the top of her game revel boldly in her own confidence. That’s not something you often get to see on the big screen.