Like a Boss review – female friendship comedy mistakes raunch for humor | Film

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About halfway through Like A Boss, ostensibly a comedy for women about female friendship and some business ethics, two beauty entrepreneurs and best friends, Mel (Tiffany Haddish) and Mia (Rose Byrne), meet their main competition for a major makeup showcase: two straight guys. They have their own makeup line designed around what they assume women want: to wear “cherry-poppin’” lip gloss, to cover up their flaws, to look hot for men. The makeup dudes are supposed to be a joke – a ridiculous contrast to the earnest empowerment of Mel and Mia’s line, which assumes women beautify for themselves – but I couldn’t help feeling like the bit encapsulates the film, directed by Miguel Arteta, as a whole. It’s a movie starring women and marketed to women as a girls-night-out romp, but it mistakes the surface-level mention of sex or bodily functions or raunch for something real, or humorous, or what women want.

It’s also written by two men. Based on a story by veteran TV writer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, the script by Adam Cole-Kelly and Sam Pitman flattens the shadow of ribald and genuinely hilarious female-driven movies like Bridesmaids into material as thin as filo dough. That material is, basically, the assumption that women talking about sex/vaginas/penises in various slang is automatically comedic. (See: the first lines from the trailer – “why is dream sex so much better than real sex?” asks Mia. “Because they come when you want them to,” answers Mel, which is … an observation, though not a particularly funny one.)

The plot is promising enough, if clearly a descendant of Bridesmaids. Best friends since middle school, Mel and Mia share everything – bad homecoming photos, many joints in college and in adulthood, an interest in Barack Obama, a house – even if they overlap little in personality. Mia is Tiffany Haddish bottled into a character with little backstory – bawdy, fun and profoundly unashamed, a temperamental creative who’s 95% id. Mel is a people-pleaser, a thin white girl archetype afraid of confrontation and deferential to authority who’s also secretly raunchy and, as Mia says, “mean on the inside”. The women are caught in a stage of arrested development; they dress stylishly and run a small company but have resisted starting families, growing out of parties or breaking their co-dependency. Facing bankruptcy and their more stable friends’ judgment, they sign over 49% of their company to Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), a Boss Bitch caricature who runs a Glossier/Sephora mashup beauty empire and whose appeal, we are informed in multiple half-jokes, is that she really is unapologetically a bitch.

Claire Luna, a cartoonish capitalist in 7in heels, has visions for the duo which do not include wholesome self-empowerment, and hinges her majority ownership on the breakup of Mel and Mia’s partnership. They promise it’s impossible to break them up. Between that promise and the trailer, you’ve basically seen the movie. There’s shoe-throwing, exposition-laden heart-to-hearts, and more breaking things, interspersed with clunky references to how much time has passed and the fact that Mia is black and Mel is not. Nothing in the script is remotely surprising or very funny, though nothing is horrendous, either.

Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek in Like a Boss.

Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek in Like a Boss. Photograph: Eli Joshua Ade/AP

Which is a shame, because the performances here deserve better. All three stars are admirably game and unafraid of reaching for camp, physical contortions or bad karaoke. Haddish is, at her best, a magnetic live wire, while Byrne (also a Bridesmaids veteran – sense a theme?) demonstrates once again that she can do awkward-dancing-with-the-kids better than most. Supporting stars Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge make the most of flimsy lines and one-note characters. The high star wattage makes Like a Boss watchable, in a seeing a four-minute-miler running alone on a track kind of way: the talent is clear and compelling, but devoid of surroundings on its level, hard to appreciate. It is definitely the kind of movie I’d watch through the seats if the person in front of me chose it on a flight.

But it could be more than that, as there are kernels of something interesting here: an interracial best friendship and business partnership in today’s America, or navigating best friendship on the cusp of middle age, or maintaining the ethics of your business and passion under the growth mandate of capitalism. It would take thought, and jokes constructed with a motivation other than how to include the word coochie. It would take an understanding that women want to see sex and their bodies talked about filthily on screen, but are smart enough to know that’s not always enough.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Like a Boss review – female friendship comedy mistakes raunch for humor | Film

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