Like a Boss Review
More than a decade ago, comedy trio The Lonely Island’s "Like a Boss" became one of their multiple viral songs, eventually certified gold. That over ten years later the phrase, which for a time was synonymous with a very masculine brand of humour, then became a social media hashtag celebrating achievements like acing your gym session, has now been slapped onto a women-led studio comedy seems emblematic of the pop cultural shift we’ve witnessed since the mid 2010s. Feminism, or at least a diluted form of it, is not only acceptable now, but desirable, and a tool cannily used to sell products.
And so, inevitably perhaps, emerges Miguel Arteta's Like a Boss the movie, a lifeless comedy about female friendship directed and written by men but entirely propped up by its leading ladies trying their best with woefully flat material.
Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish have both managed to craft simple but clearly defined comic personas: Byrne tends to play the beautiful but brittle control freak, while Haddish is the caring but chaotic loud mouth. These stock characteristics are wheeled out again where they should be a natural fit in the form of Mia (Byrne) and Mel (Haddish). Inseparable since their pre-teens and now running a small but successful handcrafted make up brand that sells empowering messages, the friendship begins to falter when the flame-haired, manipulative mogul Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) makes them an offer they can’t refuse to join her empire.
Most of the humour rests on Haddish and Hayek’s shoulders, both delivering broad performances that with sharper writing might be genuinely amusing. Both are absolutely committed, and even the lifeless script can’t eradicate their sense of timing and exactly how far to push a cartoonish character. But a string of weak jokes and contrived physical comedy set pieces seriously underserve both actresses’ talents.
The lack of any jokes that elicit any reaction stronger than a smile means Like a Boss’ hustle depends on the believability of Mia and Mel’s relationship and they fight to win their business back from Claire. But despite Byrne and Haddish’s valiant attempts to reproduce the easy chemistry of lifelong gal pals, it isn’t terribly convincing. The script provides a concrete reason as to why Mia and Mel’s closeness was cemented from a young age but makes minimal effort to actually show their bond. After the women argue it takes their assistant Barrett (Billy Porter) to remind Mel how hard Mia works behind the scenes to facilitate Mel’s flashes of creative inspiration. But we never see such an instance occur, we’re only told about it, meaning it has no emotional impact whatsoever.
Frustratingly, there are moments that show the potential for insight into the tangled relationship between make up and self-esteem, and who women wear make up to impress: men, female friends, themselves, or a combination of all three? But Like a Boss isn’t interested in anything beyond feminism-lite, nor really engaging with the influence of the all-powerful beauty industry. And maybe that wouldn’t be a problem in a genuinely funny comedy, but here the absence of anything to say at all is all the more obvious.
Like a cheap lipstick with its own title emblazoned on the cover in gold, Like a Boss is a shiny, tacky product that might be prettifying on the surface, but any well-intentioned message of feminist empowerment is ironically hard to take seriously when it’s delivered via such an unfunny, blatant cash-grab.
Like a Boss arrives nationwide in UK cinemas on February 21.