“The Boss” is better than its lesbian jokes

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Melissa McCarthy has never been one to hold back when it comes to any character she plays and in her latest film, The Boss, it’s no different. The movie, opening today in theaters nationwide, focuses on the life of a boisterous, controlling, selfish, business mogul named Michelle Darnell (Melissa), who winds up in prison for insider trading. After Michelle is released, she realizes her cushy lifestyle has vanished, leaving her homeless, broke and with no choice but to move in with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson).

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Michelle Darnell was a character Melissa used to perform at The Groundlings 15 years ago, and she said it was just one she always felt needed a space on the big screen.

“I just could not let her go,” Melissa said at a press conference for The Boss. “I took that as a sign that I wasn’t done with her, and since I loved her so much even with all her flaws and all of her good and bad points, I just kept thinking about her. The more I thought about her, the more I loved that unbridled confidence of ‘I’m going to wear what I want, say what I want, do what I want’ and we don’t get to see that a lot with female characters.”

Michelle’s attempt to find her way back into the business world does not go as planned, because those that “loved” her were simply pretending to love her because she had money and power. When that’s gone, Michelle is left with no connections to get her back to the industry she once ruled and realizes she needs to find another avenue to get herself back on top.

While living with Claire and Rachel, she is messy, lazy and depressed. (She is also sneaking into Claire’s bed at night so she doesn’t have to sleep on the pull-out bed in the living room—nothing ever happens but I like to think it could have.) So when Claire asks Michelle to take Rachel to her Brownie meeting, Michelle isn’t thrilled but reluctantly agrees. Within minutes, Michelle finds out how much the girls make in brownie sales per year and a light bulb goes off: She is going to sell brownies for a living, with the help of Claire, Rachel and as many friends as Rachel can gather.

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By now I am sure most of you have either seen the previews on TV or heard them on the radio, providing a few moments of laughter from the film, including the scene where Michelle tells a group of young girls that Claire is her partner, but not like “girl-on-girl stuff.” One young Brownie asks “What’s girl-on-girl stuff?” and Michelle responds, “Something you will dabble with in college but it won’t really stick—unless you’re Hannah. Hannah, I think it’s gonna fit you like a glove.”

What you don’t see in the trailer is Michelle questioning Hannah’s mother about being a lesbian, saying that is probably why she has all that pent-up anger.  Out of context, it may sound a bit harsh, but in the film, it plays well.

Although The Boss doesn’t have a major queer female role like Tammy, another film Melissa and husband Ben Falcone wrote and directed together, there are certainly moments throughout the film that insinuate a level of queerness in certain characters, such as a female police officer in prison who Michelle greets by saying, “Hello, Gail. I wasn’t into you, but I was flattered.”

Writing strong female characters is something Melissa says she finds extremely important, along with having them be a part of production behind-the-scenes.

“If no one behind the camera or no one running it can really speak to ‘Well, that’s not really what a woman would say,’ or you don’t have the woman’s point of view, you are just limiting the scope and limiting your credibility,” Melissa said.

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Kristen Bell agrees and says she believes that women are leading the way in comedy.

“Maybe I’m just an optimist or maybe I just see what I want to see, but I don’t necessarily think comedy is a boys club anymore,” Kristen said. “I think people like Tina [Fey] and Amy [Poehler] and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Melissa and Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman—I think those women have changed the game and in truth, personally, I can name off a lot more successful, entrepreneurial comedienne’s than I can male comedians.”

The Boss delivers in that it gives us a chance to see not only Melissa and Kristen play strong female characters, but ample opportunities to laugh your ass off.

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