Actress Melissa McCarthy returns to the big screen after a nearly year-long absence with her latest movie, “The Boss.” The comedy follows successful businesswoman Michelle Darnell’s (McCarthy) fall from grace and journey back to the boardroom through a mix of slapstick and vulgarity that McCarthy’s movies are known for. This film earned its R rating and may push some viewers too far with its young actors throwing punches and curses like their adult cast-mates.
The movie starts off on a rainy day in 1975 with a catchy pop song from the era. Young Michelle is returned to an orphanage by the couple who had adopted her, and a late-middle-aged nun is there to greet her. The scene repeats every five years, as both Michelle and the nun get older and more frustrated with each return to the orphanage. Eventually, in 1985, Michelle has had enough and decides to take her future into her own hands with the first F-bomb of the movie.
Fast forward to the present, Michelle Darnell is at the top of her game: one of the richest women in the world, flying out on a pyrotechnic phoenix to greet a sold out stadium waiting to hear her secrets to success. A self-made, ruthless business mogul who would do anything to get to the top…including insider trading.
What Darnell lacked in business scruples, she did not make up for in interpersonal connections. Her hapless assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), bears the brunt of her whims and is a servant to her every need. A single mom, Claire just wants to make a quality living for her and her daughter. Darnell lacks empathy toward family relations and often puts Claire in awkward positions, as well as situations that keep her constantly away from her daughter.
In addition to being an uncaring boss, Darnell has a history of being cutthroat towards her peers. A betrayal in her past ends up landing Darnell in hot water for insider trading due to a tip from jilted ex-lover and former coworker, Renault (Peter Dinklage). The arrest comes moments after an interview in which her mentor is shown on video giving an expletive-filled rant about Darnell. Unable to escape trouble, she spends five months in federal prison.
After completing her sentence, Darnell returns to the outside world to discover that she has been left with nothing. She learns that her assets were seized, investors left, and Renault took over her company. The former hotshot is back on the bottom again and the only one who will help is Claire. Although the situation is not ideal, Darnell’s former assistant gets guilt-tripped by her “Dandelion” (the movie’s equivalent to Girl Scouts) daughter into helping out.
Giving her a place to stay, Claire tasks Darnell with assisting her daughter by bringing her to a Dandelion Scout meeting. After an altercation with a mom and older troop member, Darnell gets her next great business idea: “Darnell’s Darlings”, a new take on scouting which would allow the girls to make money and build a college fund through selling brownies made by Claire. The girls follow Darnell’s teachings of cunning business practices, going against many of the Dandelion ways, which leads to some amusing run-ins between the troops.
While Claire and Michelle build their new business, Darnell starts developing bonds that she has never experienced before. Not knowing how to handle them, situations get complicated when Renault returns to stir up trouble. Darnell fought her way to the top alone, but was never happy. Working with Claire and her daughter caused her to rethink her ways. They face many challenges, but the core of “The Boss” is about strengthening relationships. This is the heart of the movie, and it effectively carries through to the climax and resolution.
It was a nice change of pace to see a movie that had so many roles dedicated to women and girls that did not revolve around romance. While the two leading ladies each had a romantic subplot, those separate relationships were not the central theme of the movie. Another positive change was that this movie, unlike many of McCarthy’s others, did not focus on her weight or appearance as the butt of all jokes. The movie maintained the physical humor without resorting to tired old clichés.
Overall the movie had heart and humor, plenty of cursing and even a highly-stylized fight sequence between rival troops. It is worth a look at a second-run theater or a rental when it is out, but do not pay full price.