REVIEW: Like a Boss (2020)

Mel (Rose Byrne) and Mia (Tiffany Haddish), friends since childhood, operate their own makeup business. With the bills piling up, they likely have six months left before going out of business. When world-famous cosmetics tycoon Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) arrives with an offer of millions in funding, it seems too good to be true – and as they start to work with the volatile industry legend, they soon learn that it is.

Bear with me for a paragraph or two. I am not going to pretend that Like a Boss is particularly great film. In truth it is a mediocre one, and I mean that in a literal sense: it is far from the worst film you will likely see this year, but neither is it particularly good. It essentially justs sits there. It will enable you to pleasantly pass 90 minutes if you are bored, but you will likely have moved on from it the very second the closing credits roll. The film’s own ability to be enjoyed only takes it so far – you have to want to see this kind of ‘sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves’ heart-warming fare yourself. Am I that person? Probably not. My point is that you likely don’t need the opinion of a middle-aged white male film critic to judge whether or not Like a Boss is a film for you.

The direction by Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids) is straight-forward, as it usually is for a Hollywood comedy. The screenplay is by-the-numbers and fairly predictable. Where the film does step up is in its casting. Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish can both work a joke incredibly well, and together they manage to lift a lot of the material to an amiable and quite watchable level. The supporting cast, which includes the likes of Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge, pretty much do so as well. Not only do they manage to make it a broadly enjoyable film, they make it a likeable one too.

The real stand-out in the cast is Salma Hayek, whose previous comedy experience seems to have largely consisted of playing patient love interests, rolling their eyes at their funny male co-stars. Here she is given an actual comedic character to perform, and she does an outstanding job with it. It is a superb act of self-parody mixed with exaggerated villainy. Studios should take note and give Hayek the opportunity to be funny more often.

What is interesting in watching these sorts of comedies is just how far the industry’s idea of mainstream has shifted over the past decade. Ten years ago a comedy like Bridesmaids felt quite a bit left of centre, with the kinds of foul language and gross-out gags normally found in an edgier, more puerile teen comedy. Now such content is taken from granted. Like a Boss does not extend itself anywhere near as far as Paul Feig’s 2010s masterpiece, but it’s remarkable just how far it does go for such a mainstream, traditional kind of a film.

Fans of this kind of comedy, who should be able to recognise it from the marketing, will have a fair bit of fun with this film. It is breezy, lowest-common-denominator entertainment – and sometimes that really is exactly what one might be after. I doubt many viewers will remember it in six months’ time, but it serves a purpose and has an audience. It is up to you to self-identify.

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