Written by: Patrick Howard
Like a Boss (Miguel Arteta, 2020) 1 out of 4 stars.
I long for the day when January ceases to be a bottomless pit of mediocre and downright horrible films. Occasionally you’ll get a surprise hit like Cloverfield in 2008 or an underrated gem like The Grey in 2011, but more often than not, studios release C-rate comedies and horror films at the beginning of the new year, pray for an agreeable profit in return, and forget it ever happened.
Continuing this irritating tradition is Miguel Arteta’s Like a Boss, starring Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek. Haddish and Byrne are Mia and Mel, business partners and lifelong best friends. The name of the game is cosmetics, and Mia and Mel’s beauty boutique is barely staying afloat. As Mia and Mel prepare for the final days of their store, a helpful hand is lent by the cosmetic industry juggernaut Claire Luna, played by Salma Hayek. Luna offers to pay for Mia and Mel’s ever-growing debt if they agree to model their business in the Claire Luna mantra. Unsurprisingly, this deal backfires and Mia and Mel are forced to somehow get their boutique from a cosmetics tycoon with too much money to burn.
Like a Boss wants to promote a healthy message of positive makeup use without putting the effort of integrating said message into a comedy with likable characters and clever writing. Amidst the subpar writing and awkward, pregnant pauses that fill in spaces where jokes should be, I can’t deny the chemistry Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne share. These two are believable as lifelong friends, and it couldn’t be clearer when they’re in scenes that aren’t trying to cram in as many jokes as possible.
The comedy of Like a Boss is a straightjacket that neither Tiffany Haddish nor Rose Byrne can wiggle out of. Billy Porter (of FX’s Pose) manages to carry a couple of scenes with legitimate charm and hilarity, but even those moments are fleeting. Haddish and Byrne are a great comedy duo that deserves a better movie. Miguel Arteta and company understand when making a comedy it’s wise to keep the audience laughing as often as possible. However, Like a Boss chooses quantity over quality. Recognizable jokes are replaced with offhanded allusions to random names in pop culture. Sadly, we must trudge on and hope for a more consistent January film lineup in the far future.