The last time director Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids, Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) and actor Selma Hayek worked together, it resulted in the defiantly under-seen Beatriz at Dinner, in which Hayek plays a holistic medicine practitioner who ends up attending a wealthy client’s dinner party after her car breaks down and challenges the establishment’s entitled belief system. It’s a terrifically subversive work that goes after the patriarchy, the one-percenters, and just about anyone else who looks down on the middle class.
I’m sure in their own way Arteta and Hayek perhaps saw their latest collaboration, Like A Boss, as a work that tackled some of the same issues but with a more comedic slant. But boy, did they miss the mark—unless their mark was an R-rated celebration of shallow dummies. If it was, they nailed it.
In the movie, best friends Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne) have started their own cosmetic company that they’ve built off the principle that the beauty is already there; their products simply bring it out, rather than other lines that are designed to be layered on to cover flaws. The ladies have built this company from nothing with the help of their two loyal friends, played by Jennifer Coolidge and scene-stealing Billy Porter, who provides the film its one and only big-laugh moment.
The company is nearly a half-million dollars in debt, and the Mia + Mel store is in danger of shutting down in a matter of months, until a representative (Karan Soni) from a major makeup company shows up in their shop to offer them a chance to meet with his boss, Claire Luna (Hayek, who’s character has oversized teeth that make it near impossible to understand her at times; and I’m sure the giant mop of hair she’s sporting is orange by coincidence), so she can possibly take over their company, while still leaving them in control of the big decisions. Of course, Claire cannot be trusted, and soon she’s scheming to drive a wedge between these two lifelong friends (a stipulation in the contract that neither Mia nor Mel bother to read states that if one of them quits the company, Claire gains total control; oops).
Like A Boss isn’t just filled with messages about hiring a contract lawyer before you sign your life away to a buck-toothed monster, but it also pretends it cares about such things as never letting money come between you and your bestie; not caring about what other people think of your level of success; and don’t let men (in this case, two dicks played by Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen) design a makeup line because all they care about is piling on the product to make a woman look “hot” by a man’s standard. But the film is so ham-fisted in its treatment of this friendship that no plot turn occurs that isn’t broadcast a half hour earlier. Honestly, the funnier movie would have been explaining how Mel was essentially raised by Mia’s family since she was young, or how a cartoon villain still manages to come between them despite the fact that her manipulation tactics are about as subtle and precise as buckshot.
Written by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly, Like A Boss barely clocks in at 80 minutes before credits, but it still finds several dozen ways to feel endless and insufferable. I like all of the leads immensely, but most of the jokes fall flat, despite the particularly energetic efforts by Haddish and Hayek to make us laugh just a little. This is a film that knows very little about how business works and even less about the resilience of friendships. The only moments here that come close to working are the ones that have nothing to do with the main storyline. Porter is a treasure in his small handful of scenes, and Mia and Mel’s other friends (Ari Graynor, Jessica St. Clair, and Natasha Rockwell) have their moments of sublime shallowness, as the women to whom the self-critical Mel can’t stop comparing herself. Mostly, Like A Boss is just an unfunny bummer, and that’s the primary reason to avoid its blush.
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