LIKE A BOSS

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Miguel Arteta

Stars: Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish, Selma Hayek, Jennifer Coolidge, Billy Poter, Karan Soni, Jessie St Clair, Natasha Rothwell, Ari Graynor .

Salma Hayek, Rose Byrne, and Tiffany Haddish in Like a Boss (2020)

Mia (Rose Byrne) and Mel (Tiffany Haddish, the breakout star of Girls Trip) have been friends since they met in middle school twenty-two years earlier, and they bonded over a mutual passion for makeup and beauty treatments. They eventually established their own self-named DIY beauty company together, which has become moderately successful. While Mel is the creative one, Mia is the organiser able to keep the business running. They have two employees – Sydney (Jennifer Coolidge) and Barrett (Emmy award winner Billy Porter, from tv series Pose, etc) who mixes most of their make-up. But now the business is deep in debt.

The flailing business attracts the attention of Claire Luna (Selma Hayek), the manipulative, cunning, ruthless and acerbic head of Oveida, a giant cosmetics corporation. She offers to pay off their debts in exchange for 49% ownership of the company. In reality, she wants control of their signature beauty package and plans to pit the two friends against each other. Claire’s machinations threaten to destroy the long-standing friendship between Mel and Mia.

This flat, formulaic and largely unfunny female centric comedy about two friends who run a beauty business is not a patch on Second Act, the recent Jennifer Lopez comedy set against the backdrop of the bitchiness of the cutthroat world of the cosmetics industry. Nor is it in the same league as Bridesmaids, the high mark of raunchy female driven comedies.

Much of the fault lies in the script from Sam Pitman, a former actor, and Adam Cole-Kelly. This is the first feature film written by the pair and it shows in the shallow script, the underdeveloped characters and the clumsy and unfunny situations created. The script sets up some broad scenarios, but most of the attempted humour falls embarrassingly flat. Most jokes land with a thud. The half-hearted observations on female friendship and bonds of sisterhood basically have little new to say.

Puerto Rican filmmaker Miguel Arteta seems a little lost with the demands of this mainstream comedy and his handling of the material is flat and plodding. Arteta previously gave us Beatriz At Dinner, the black comedy about modern social mores, which also starred Hayek. There she delivered a much more subtle and nuanced performance; here he has encouraged her to go for broke and deliver a wildly over the top performance. But she comes across as an unrealistic, almost cartoon character given to carrying around a golf club.

There is some good chemistry between Byrne and Haddish, which occasionally brings a bit of spark to the flat material, but the pair deserve better. Haddish has a great screen presence and a brash comedic style and revels in the more physical stuff. However, she seems to have bad judgement when it comes to choosing film scripts, what with the awful and unfunny Night School on her resume. Porter is one of the standouts here, and he brings some much-needed snark to the material, and he gets one of the best moments in the 83 minute farce. But his character is not used as much as he could have been. Coolidge, best known for playing Stifler’s mum in the American Pie series, is wasted in a fairly thankless role that tries to tap into her usual lovable but ditzy persona. Jessie St Clair, Natasha Rothwell and Ari Graynor play Mia and Mel’s posse of happily married friends, but their scenes are largely redundant.

There is some colourful costume design from Skinah Brown (What Men Want, etc) especially for Hayek’s character.

Ultimately though Like A Boss is a fairly dull, unfunny and underwhelming comedy. Even many women at the preview screening were unamused and disappointed.

★☆

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