Directed By Miguel Arteta
Starring – Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek
The Plot – Best friends Mia and Mel (Haddish and Byrne) are living their best lives running their own cosmetics company they’ve built from the ground up. Unfortunately, they’re in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a big buyout offer from a notorious titan of the cosmetics industry Claire Luna (Hayek) proves too tempting to pass up, putting Mel and Mia’s lifelong friendship in jeopardy. The beauty business is about to get ugly.
Rated R for adult language, crude sexual material, and drug use
– No stalling. This movie barely breaks the 80 minute run time needed to label it a major motion picture, and there’s many positives that come with that decision. For one, the pacing remains fluid, keeping the story moving forward at all times without any of the unnecessary abruptions needed to stretch itself even further than it has any right to be. Secondly, it renders the watch as harmless as possible if you do end up disliking it. This film is around a half hour in before the conflict even arises, and by the time it goes through the conventional motions of cinematic storytelling, you feel like there’s still another half hour left, when in reality the film is coming to a close with a speeding third act. As to where most bad comedies try to stretch themselves to the two hour mark, “Like a Boss” knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to exaggerate the execution.
– Friendship. This is a film that centers around female friendships, and while the screenplay has many problems outside of this element, the chemistry between Haddish and Byrne feels every bit believable as it does nourishing for buddies in the audience who are seeing this together. In fact, the film is noticeably weaker when these two aren’t on-screen simultaneously, so much so that it depends on them to keep up the momentum for roughly 90% of the screenplay. Both of them exert the best they can with the material they are given, and each play their respective parts coherently so that their characters don’t feel like two of the same that rub together overdone. This friendship not only rubs off on our indulgence of them, but also weighs heavily into the creativity of their products, taking something simple in ideals, and fleshing it out in a way that articulates the value within this company.
– Strong moral fiber. Something that bothered me with 2018’s “I Feel Pretty” was its preaching of women’s confidence that didn’t translate to an internal product that exactly contradicted what it was preaching. That isn’t the case here, as this film’s established belief that women’s beauty comes from within remains faithful to the ideas that its two leading ladies promote. This not only sends the audience home inspired because of the film’s powerful message, but also doesn’t try to meander or manipulate the ideals that it was founded on, giving us plenty of profound food for thought that should carry on much further than the film’s closing credits.
– No product placement. Even for a film that is decked out in business ideals and product discussion, there isn’t a single ounce of product placement with their own created kind, or ones that exist in the real world outside of the film. This keeps the film from feeling like a shameless cash grab, but beyond that leaves the attention of the narrative focused entirely on the characters and conflict, where it rightfully should be. On top of this, major respect to Arteta for not reaching for the low-hanging fruit or including The Lonely Island’s “Like a Boss” anywhere in this film. A song that I do enjoy, but one that feels too obvious for something with such an unoriginal working title.
– Inconsistencies. These are essentially within the context of the characters, who switch their feelings towards our central protagonist duo about as frequent as the weather changes patterns. One second, the friends around them, as well as Salma Hayek’s character will be angry with them, then in the next everything is copasetic, then in the next it reverts back to conflict. This gives the movie a jumbled presentation with its inferior editing, that really minimized my invested interest in the progressing narrative. It gives a feeling that vital scenes in between are missing to draw everything together and establish these internal feelings within the film, but because the run time is so compartmentalized it rushes along development on its way to the finish line.
– Flat humor. Even for a film that is given the ambitious R-rating, the gags and deliveries here lack any semblance of creativity to sell the vehicle of Haddish and Byrne as established leading ladies within a comedy. With the exception of two hearty laughs, and one light chuckle, the humor not only fails, but fails so embarrassingly so that it makes it obvious for how long each improv act is dragged out. This is seen through long-winded diatribes that go on for far too long, as well as a noticeable space of silence after the delivery, which feels like it was written for a sitcom laugh-track. What’s most disappointing is how little they do with the R-rating, as nothing pertaining to it ever left anything remotely memorable or necessary in classifying this with such an ambitious designation. It’s an immature comedy that wants so badly to elevate its game to mature audiences, but the material contradicts its desires behind every shining example.
– Levity. This is seen through the many conflicts that the duo endure, which in turn leave no ounce of uncertainty or dramatic heft to what should be these two ladies’ worlds crashing down. Every conflict is handled directly in the next scene, making the characters feel anything but vulnerable, and the antagonist plot is never fully realized in a long-term way that pushes audiences to invest in their unfortunate plight. On top of this, the finished product has no resonating feelings of regret or longing, thanks in part to an out of left field musical number that is one of many cliches for female comedy cinema, to remind them that they had a good time.
– Business blunders. Be honest, is there any successful business model that is run this way? What contract in business outlines a friendship clause, where if one friend leaves the majority stake of control in the company shifts to the outside investor? As to where the film’s products themselves are a shining example of everything the movie is morally trying to be about, the business end of such a screenplay elaborates that its writers actually knows very little about the textual side of contracts and business models necessary to reach positive ink in the books. The TV show Shark Tank would be licking their chops at an outline so mindlessly bare that they rightfully should be shutdown for their inability to turn a product with a concept in employee intention that dooms them from the very beginning. This makes the business at stake one that doesn’t seem even remotely appealing to their opposition, which only further convolutes the second act opportunity that the entirety of the film is based upon.
– Cartoon antagonist. This is not a knock on Hayek, who through films like “Desperado” and “Frida” has proven that she has no shortage of depth to deposit to her films. This is more for the screenplay and visual prosthetics that have her playing a lost character from the “Horrible Bosses” franchise. Decked out in teeth enhancements and a Carrot Top wig that does its hardest to take away the appeal of Hayek’s finest features, her physical appearance is only surpassed by a personality in character that is pointlessly evil right down to her very core. So much so that she can’t even see the intelligent meaning in compromise or opportunity that often leaves her vulnerable for the taking. The scariest or most effective villains are often the ones we as an audience can reason with, and there’s nothing about Hayek’s CEO that even brushes with relatability.
– Predictability. There is no shortage of it here, as the first act mentions of unseen characters and quirks stand out as equally as the spoon-fed exposition meant to instill an obvious spoiler somewhere later in the film. This not only renders the inevitable prominent, but also delivers it in such a way that completely lacks subtlety, giving us one more example of how little this film truly has to offer. It’s incredible that everything mentioned eventually develops, but beyond that how big of an impact that it has to the future of their business relationships, almost as if these ladies aren’t business leaders, but some kind of fortune tellers who see everything before it even happens. Perhaps this also answers their lack of concern with losing their company that I previously mentioned.
My Grade: 4/10 or D+