Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) is The Boss (15A) from hell: an aggressive egomaniac, she torments her long-suffering assistant Claire (Kristen Bell).
Sent to prison for insider trading, Michelle — formerly the 47th wealthiest woman in the US, now bankrupt — hatches her latest get-rich-quick scheme when she is released five months later, utilising Claire’s talent for baking brownies to establish a brownie empire.
But has Michelle learned her lesson? In a word, no — but then, a pleasant, balanced and rehabilitated Melissa McCarthy would be a pointless exercise, given that she has forged a comic career based on abrasive vulgarity since her breakthrough with Bridesmaids (2011).
Unfortunately, Ben Falcone, who directs and co-writes, and who previously directed McCarthy in Tammy (2014), appears to make the same mistake here as he did then: The Boss is essentially an extended monologue from McCarthy (who co-produces), a scattergun spray of insults, put-downs and crude observations that only rarely hit the bullseye (despite having very little to do apart from absorb the invective, Kristen Bell holds her own as the movie’s punch-bag, the quiet heart around which McCarthy’s one-woman storm rages).
There are a couple of moments of inspired slapstick — McCarthy is a terrific physical comedian — and the scene in which Michelle’s ‘army’ of young girls goes to war against a rival faction of brownie sellers is neatly framed by Falcone as a slow-motion epic battle, but otherwise The Boss is rather flat and relentlessly crude, and represents another missed opportunity for the talented McCarthy.
(12A) weaves together a number of storylines in the week before Mothering Sunday: Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) comes to terms with her young sons’ relationship with her ex-husband’s new wife; sisters Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke) try to keep their relationships a secret from their conservative mother Flo (Margo Martindale); Kristin (Britt Robertson) is terrified by the prospect of getting in touch with Miranda (Julia Roberts), who abandoned her as an infant; and bereaved husband Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) wonders how best to celebrate Mother’s Day with his young daughters.
Garry Marshall previously directed similarly multi-narrative movies in Valentine’s Day (2010) and New Year’s Eve (2012), and while neither is a classic, the law of diminishing returns ensures that Mother’s Day is the least engaging of all.
With so many characters clamouring for attention, the writing needs a laser-like focus to sharply outline all their needs and desires; instead, Mother’s Day, written by committee, offers loosely defined archetypes rather than characters (Julia Roberts is an ice queen, Jennifer Aniston a charmingly hapless go-getter etc), while the supposedly bittersweet comic tone is so slapdash it all comes to resemble a second-rate sitcom.
This is nowhere more evident than in the central theme, which tells us that all a grown-up woman needs is a mother’s love (or, if you happen to marry a non-American, the belated and grudging approval of a racist mom). Worst of all, however, is the crushing inevitability.
With so many characters to accommodate, the rush to give them all a happy ending begins almost as soon as the movie does; unfortunately, it takes almost two hours to achieve what a child would accomplish with a crayon.
Where to Invade Next
(12A) is the latest documentary from Michael Moore, the iconoclastic filmmaker who delights in pointing up America’s failings.
The idea behind this film is that Moore himself is a one-man ‘army’, invading various countries — most of them European — in order to steal their best ideas and take them back to the United States to cure its ills.
The irascible Moore is in good form here, pretending to be horrified at the very notion of paid vacations and maternity leave, free college education, a 36-hour working week, the decriminalisation of illegal drugs and women taking charge of the political system, all of which makes Europe sound like a veritable utopia (ie, one many Europeans may not recognise).
It’s a Europe viewed through rose-tinted lenses, of course, and Moore does make the point that he is in the business of picking flowers, not weeds, on his travels, but the presenter has an engaging talent for making serious points while employing his trademark blend of chutzpah and black comedy.
As always with Moore, the film isn’t so much a balanced documentary as it is a polemic, a gentle broadside on behalf of the liberal agenda.
His breezy, irreverent Everyman style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but Moore should be cherished as a unique filmmaker, as provocative as he is entertaining.
The Boss 2/5
Mother’s Day 2/5
Where to Invade Next 4/5
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