Like a Boss (2020)
The world of beauty is about to get ugly.
Friendship seems to be the primary focus for female-fronted entertainers these days, with Hollywood trying to move away from your traditional ‘girl-meets-boy’ type rom-com. While there have been several successful films that focus on female friendship, including Paul Feig’s genuinely great Bridesmaids (2011), the excellent Booksmart (2019), and 2017’s Girls Trip, we’ve seen our fair share of stinkers, too, such as the so-so The Hustle (2019), the dismal Ocean’s 8 (2018), and the even worse Rough Night (2017). Sadly, despite its admirable intentions, and some pretty good work from leads Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish, Like a Boss falls squarely into the latter; it’s an unfunny mess that lacks internal logic and features a ridiculously over-the-top performance by Salma Hayek.
Like a Boss follows two childhood BFFs, Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne), who run a small makeup boutique in Atlanta named Mia&Mel, and are in the profession to make women feel good about themselves, using cosmetics to build up their clients’ self-esteem; Haddish’s Mia is the more inventive of the pair, while Byrne’s Mel deals with the business side of things. Not only do the besties work together, but they live together, too, in the house Mia inherited. They also drive the same dodgy car and mingle with the same group of friends, Kim (Jessica St. Clair), Jill (Natasha Rothwell), and Angela (Ari Graynor), who are a bit more financially grounded than them.
Things seem to be going well until Mel tells Mia that their self-named company is in the red (some $493,000 in debt), informing her associate that unless they do something drastic to turn things around, they’ll soon be bankrupt — a reality that she’d been hiding from her partner for some time. Enter cartoony tycoon Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), CEO of an enormous cosmetics enterprise called Oviedo, who swoops in to invest in Mia and Mel’s little venture. While Claire gives them an offer they can’t refuse, it comes with a catch, one that’ll leave the orange-haired magnate with a controlling stake of Mia&Mel if either of the original owners were ever to quit.
Of course, this is all part of her evil scheme, as Luna — who twirls a golf club around for fun and has her very own henchman named Josh (Karan Soni) — hopes to tear the ladies apart in order to steal everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve (mainly their best-selling single-use One-Night Stand kit). Now, with their livelihoods at stake, Mia — who’s less enticed by the offer — and Mel — who’s attracted to Luna’s lavish lifestyle — must try to prove that they’re worthy of being part of Claire’s cosmetics empire if they wish to keep their company afloat. All the while, their friendship is put to the ultimate test as the corporate monster pits one woman against the other.
Directed by Puerto Rican filmmaker Miguel Arteta, Beatriz at Dinner (2017), and penned by newcomers Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly (story credit goes to Danielle Sanchez-Witzel), Like a Boss feels like it’s been constructed by committee and is filled with generic gags that seem as though they’ve been lifted from other gross-out comedies — the gals, for instance, smoke weed in front of a newborn at a friend’s baby shower and destroy a drone in Luna’s swanky building — all of which fail to pass muster. Sure, there’s a pretty amusing sequence where a hired chef teaches Mel, Mia, and their posse how to prepare a Mexican meal, and Mel sabotages Mia with an overabundance of spicy peppers, but given the talent involved here, this is beyond disappointing. On top of its dearth of laughs, the film doesn’t make a lot of sense either. For example, Mia isn’t too keen on the new partnership with Hayek at first but is somehow swayed after Mel forces her to sing karaoke at a bar. Huh? And oh, don’t even get me started on the nonsensical resolution!
If there’s one saving grace, it’s the performances, which, all things considered, are pretty decent — it’s clear that everyone is at least trying. Aussie Rose Byrne is charming and displays her usual playful goofiness as the business-savvy Mel, who lacks the confidence of her co-partner and lifelong friend Mia, played by an energized Haddish. As mentioned earlier, while Salma Hayek’s character is completely far-fetched, the 53-year-old looks to be having a ball of a time portraying the baddie, whether talking about her large breasts or scheming like a Bond villain, she’s fun to watch.
Billy Porter, FX’s Pose (2018), and Jennifer Coolidge, Legally Blonde (2001), are decent in support roles as Mel and Mia’s dedicated employees Barrett and Sydney; Coolidge does her regular clueless blonde thing while Porter owns his role (and his ‘tragic moment’) as the flamboyant Barrett. Jacob Latimore, Detroit (2017), is rather sweet as Mia’s sexy bootie-call Harry, while twosome Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen are a hoot as Mia&Mel’s bro rivals Ron and Greg respectively, whose makeup company, which is all about ‘getting some action,’ is called Get Some — I just wish these guys had gotten more screen time. Last but not least, Natasha Rothwell, Love, Simon (2018), is an absolute blast as the tired mom Jill, who steals the whole show in her very few scenes.
A great cast, however, can’t save a dud of a movie, and Like a Boss just ain’t great! Running at a brisk yet painful 83 minutes, Like a Boss is a laugh-less, cheap-looking waste of time and talent, the type of movie that finishes in a cringe-worthy ‘life-changing’ karaoke scene! Perhaps the movie’s biggest sin, though, is a last act cameo appearance by Lisa Kudrow, who reminds us of a much better film about female friendship, 1997’s excellent Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
1.5 / 5 – Poor
Reviewed by Mr. Movie