Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Kathy Bates

Five Films for Campaign Season


As we enter the final days of a presidential campaign that has been both historic and unusually ahem interesting we are more aware than ever of the vital need to engage in politics, (however distasteful it can sometimes be.) Here are some movies dedicated to examining how the sausage making of electing political leaders actually occurs.

The Best Man (1964) Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of the Apes, Patton) and written by Gore Vidal was based on his own play of the same title. Starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Edie Adams, Margaret Leighton and Lee Tracy this drama details the sordid maneuverings behind the nomination of a presidential candidate. Tracy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in what was to be his final film.

The Candidate (1972) This satirical comedy drama was directed by Michael Ritchie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) and written by former Eugene McCarthy speechwriter Jeremy Larner. Political specialist Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) needs a Democratic candidate to oppose a popular Republican incumbent (Don Porter).  Since no serious candidate will enter such an unwinnable race Lucas seeks out Bob McKay (Robert Redford) the son of a former Democratic governor who wants to use the campaign solely as bully pulpit to spread his idealistic platform. Things don’t go as planned. It was widely acclaimed for Redford’s performance and Larner’s script, and the latter won an Oscar.

Bob Roberts (1992) This satirical mockumentary was written and directed by Tim Robbins who also starred in the title role as a conservative Republican folk singer who becomes the challenger against a Democratic incumbent for one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats.  Shot through the perspective of Terry Manchester (stage star Brian Murray) who’s doing a documentary on Roberts’ campaign while a young reporter Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito) attempts to expose Roberts as a fraud. It currently has a 100% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Wag the Dog (1997) This hysterical black comedy produced and directed by Barry Levinson kicks off with allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the President and an adorable firefly girl…less than two weeks before the election.  Trouble shooter Conrad Bean (Robert DeNiro) is brought in to save the situation and he concocts an elaborate scheme to distract the public by creating a fake war with Albania. To that end he recruits legendary Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) and then things get very, VERY complicated. Besides Hoffman and DeNino we also get Anne Heche, William H. Macy, Denis Leary, and Woody Harrelson all at the top of their game as well. Small wonder it has an 85% rating at Rotten Tomatoes as well as Oscar nominations for Dustin Hoffman for Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Primary Colors (1998) Based on the novel of the same name, directed by Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Silkwood) and starring John Travolta as a charismatic Southern governor trying to win the Democratic Party nomination for President. (Three guesses who this is based on.) Besides Travolta we also get winning turns by Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, and Adrian Lester. Bates was nominated by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress and screenwriter Elaine May (Ishtar, The Birdcage) also received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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The Boss – Struggling to be in Control  


In looking at the title of The Boss and Melissa McCarthy’s headlining name, the first thought that comes to mind is that this is a comedy. And with last year’s very successful and very funny Spy, McCarthy was on a roll. What could go wrong, right? Well, the last time McCarthy teamed up with husband Ben Falcone, we got Tammy, a horrific train wreck that couldn’t be saved. Unfortunately, the same can be said about The Boss, a film that flounders in its inability to understand what it wants to be.

Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is an orphan no one took in as a child, so she’s always felt unloved and unwanted. While Michelle’s rocky beginning caused her to push people away, she succeeds as an entrepreneur. Her book, The Power of One, is a bestseller and, thanks to her business, she’s the “47th richest woman in America.” However, Claire (Kristen Bell), a hardworking single mother and personal assistant to Michelle, is shortchanged. Being on the receiving end of Michelle’s mean disposition and behavior is not a joyride.

Once on top of the world, Michelle finds herself in jail after an old flame and coworker, Renault (Peter Dinklage), gives her up for insider trading and all her assets are claimed and liquidated. Starting from scratch, Michelle finds she has no place to stay except with loyal and pitying Claire and her daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson). Michelle gets into business with Claire making brownies and tries to rebuild herself from the bottom up, gaining a new family along the way.

The Boss is by no means as much of a mess as Tammy, but the film doesn’t tap into McCarthy’s comedic strengths. Tacked onto the already weak plot are several side ones that are completely unnecessary: Bell’s romance with Tyler Labine; McCarthy’s strange and unfocused relationship with mentor Kathy Bates; Dinklage’s terrible attempt to be a bad guy; and, the verbal fights with uptight scout mother Annie Mumolo.

These confusing story lines make clear that the film has no idea where it wants to go. Is it about being a mean boss? Is it about Michelle’s lonely and unloved past? Is it about something else entirely? The Boss starts one way and then veers off into various directions, quickly disintegrating in its third act. McCarthy’s Michelle is the center of the film, but without great supporting characters to bolster her journey, the film spirals into a chaotic and incoherent mess.

McCarthy makes a couple of fun quips, but the rest of the film’s comedy only rarely hits the mark; and the remainder of the cast doesn’t quite know how to keep up with her energy. Paul Feig seems most talented at bringing out the best in McCarthy, as seen in comedies like Bridesmaids and Spy, but Falcone and McCarthy together have yet to balance entertainment with a good story. The Boss is a disappointing comedy that struggles to keep its story afloat.

The Boss opens nationwide April 8, 2016.