Picture this: a highly successful businessperson, who augments the public’s perception of their wealth by doubling as a skilled entertainer, needs to bounce back after suffering some public humiliation.
This person enters a field knowing little about the profession but finds a way to prosper by exploiting complacency, deriding rivals with unwarranted personal attacks and even inciting violence.
The captain of industry boasts about cruel implementation of shrewd business tactics and remains unfazed when compared to totalitarian rulers.
(Oh, and this individual’s distinctively styled hair never gets dented.)
Did I just describe Donald Trump or Michelle Darnell, the lead character of the new film “The Boss” played by Melissa McCarthy?
The two larger-than-life figures share quite a few similarities, though McCarthy (along with co-writers Ben Falcone and Steve Mallory) could not possibly have known that her burlesqued portrayal of a corporate mogul would hit the marketplace at the same time as an equal ludicrous figure marched towards the nomination of a major political party. Literally, production ended on “The Boss” two weeks before Trump made the infamous escalator announcement. The ill-fated timing of its release makes it play like an inverse of “Zootopia,” this year’s most fortuitous arrival.
The odd parallel here and there between the fictional and the absurd business tycoon is not necessarily bothersome. And, in the interest of fairness, Donald Trump did not spend five months in jail for insider trading like Michelle Darnell. But a line feels crossed when she declares, “We’re participating in the American Dream!”
Out of context, this might seem harmless. However, Darnell utters it right before an all-out brawl takes place between her group of entrepreneurial thugs and the Girl Scout-like troop from which they disaffiliated. How can one find humor in the perversion of the American Dream on screen when a demagogue is ushering in a national nightmare in reality? Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dicator” showed that comedy had a definite place in a time of bullying leaders, though it ought to contain some confrontational element if it is to be anything more than a diversion. “The Boss” comes across as oblivious in regards to the implications of its dull satire.
Moreover, how can the makers of “The Boss” expect an audience to find it in their hearts to grant redemption to such a character without her turning any major corners in her attitudes or actions? It’s ironic that the film bears the name of producer Adam McKay, the recently minted Oscar-winning screenwriter of “The Big Short,” and also contains the line, “White collar crime doesn’t count!” Of course, the line is not meant seriously, yet nothing in the film actively refutes it.
Just as society lets these crooks off, Darnell gets let off the hook far too easily for her reckless capitalistic romps and rotten personality traits. We’re meant to find her claim as the “47th wealthiest woman in America” or the fact that a turtleneck appears sewn to the tip of her chin as the joke in “The Boss” – not her guiding philosophy or character.
Even when removing it from the loaded political context of April 2016, which hopefully audiences some day can do, the film still brings little to the table. “The Boss” marks the fifth time McCarthy has stepped into the spotlight to play a dim bulb, and the gig has not necessarily improved with age. And, somehow, they all seem to become the way they are thanks to some family issues as a child. Throw in a poorly structured script that forgets secondary characters for significant chunks of the film, and you get a recipe for mild laughter with a side order of heavy cringes. But why spend $30 million for this when you can get the same result simply by asking presidential candidates to enter a debate stage? C- /