Like a Boss and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Now that I think of it, have I really liked ANY of Tiffany Haddish’s movies? I’ve reviewed most of them by now, and outside of The Kitchen and MAYBE Keanu, her movies are mostly meh or worse which is a pattern that certainly doesn’t bode well for this film. Then again, she’s never the reason why those movies are bad and is often the complete opposite! She’s someone who can make a terrible film tolerable and a mediocre one a delight which goes to show how strong of a performer she is even if she’s not the most adept at picking scripts. In any case, is this latest entry in the Tiffany Haddish oeuvre worthy of her talents, or is she stuck shouldering the weight of another lousy movie along with every other talented person that was roped into this? Let’s find out!!
Mia Carter and Mel Paige (Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne) are best friends and co-owners of a beauty store that they opened together; Mel & Mia’s! They have good employees like Sydney and Barett (Jennifer Coolidge and Billy Porter), they have great friends they hang out with (Ari Graynor, Natasha Rothwell and Jessica St Clair), and aside from being in quite a bit of debt at the moment, they’re their own bosses and are living the American Dream! Things couldn’t get any better for them, EXCEPT THEY DO! A big makeup conglomerate owner named Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) has taken interest in their little shop and she is offering to clear their debts AND let them retain fifty-one percent of the company once it merges with Luna’s! Sounds like a sweetheart deal to me, but Mia is skeptical of such a good deal and she turns out to be right as Luna is hatching an EVIL scheme to screw them out of their company! There’s a clause in the contract that if either one of them quit their job that Luna would be the one to take over, so as long as Luna finds a way to break these two best friends up, she will be able to cut them out; leaving them with a mere… forty-nine percent of a company that Luna hopes to make millions off of. Okay… seems like an awful long way to go to make a fraction more money and to NOT use the experience and expertise of these women who got on her radar in the first place because of their good ideas, but whatever floats her boat I suppose. Can Mia and Mel weather the storm that Luna will be putting in their path and come out he other side still friends? What will these trials reveal about these two and has their friendship always been as strong as they claim it to be. How will they survive if they fail this challenge are left with no debt and a huge amount of money anyway!?
Am I missing something with this? I feel like I’m probably missing something with this. I genuinely did not enjoy this movie which is far from the most shocking thing you can imagine being that it’s a January release, but I also didn’t HATE it or find anything particularly offensive which is usually the case with bad comedies. It certainly wasn’t holding my interest as the characters are somewhat underwritten, the situations are utterly contrived, and the editing is rather unfocused, and while all of that could have been forgiven if the movie was funny, it just wasn’t for me. It feels like a huge waste of potential more than anything else as there’s so much in this movie that I SHOULD enjoy, and yet the execution left me utterly nonplussed which is exactly what you DON’T want in a movie that’s aiming to elicit laughter and mirth. More like… I don’t know, lethargy and dispassion!!
The big sticking point for me are the characters who aren’t incompetently portrayed by the actors, but the writing is… well not exactly THIN but feels out of place in this kind of movie. The thing about Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne’s characters? They’re actually great! They are two strong independent women who are talent have loving support networks, and are running a somewhat successful business! Sure one of them is the free spirited one while the other is a bit uptight, but they don’t have any REAL flaws that they need to overcome. The entire first third of the movie is about showing how amazing they are and how well they work together; both in business and in their interpersonal interactions. With so much going for them, what exactly are supposed to be mining for conflict? There’s an EXTERNAL conflict that come into the movie to be sure, but the attempts to transition that into revealing some sort of conflict within come off as hollow and cliché because they did TOO good a job making them well rounded people! It feels like there’s maybe a bit of a misunderstanding about writing characters with FLAWS and thinking of them as FAILINGS. A good example of finding that balance (though admittedly this was on a TV show which has WAY more time to examine its characters) is Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec; someone who you never once question is a good person, but her flaws are clearly presented as things that she needs to overcome. I’m not sure what Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne have to overcome in this that doesn’t feel slapped on during the ALL IS LOST moment at the end of the second act other than the contrived scheme Salma Hayek has cooked up for them, and that’s just not enough to give these characters the dimension they need.
Speaking of the contrived scheme, what’s ALSO keeping me from really investing in these characters is what they are ultimately fighting for; or perhaps more importantly, what they are fighting to prevent. The absolute WORST case scenario for these two in this movie ends with them having ALL their debt erased and make a WHOLE lot of money even if they don’t feel as creatively fulfilled. That’s it; that’s what we’re supposed to fear is going to happen if they can’t get their stuff worked out which as far as I’m concerned calls for a violin on the smaller end of the spectrum. Now in case it wasn’t clear already, I am in fact a middle class cis white dude, so me of all people finding characters unrelatable due to their privilege is a hypocrisy so grand as to justify several swift knees to the stomach, but I’m just not a whole lot of stakes in the outcome of this little tiff between them or can feel sympathetic about them NOT figuring it out. I mean sure, I know what its’ like to have a job you hate even if the money is decent (not ERASE ALL DEBT decent, but still…) and it’s kind of just human nature that we will still squabble over petty things even if there are huge consequences on the line, but it still doesn’t feel like it ultimately matters even to the characters who have to deal with these problems.
The only real bright spot for me was Salma Hayek who may be the richest person in this movie, but her single minded fury at the idea of these two staying friends and running a successful business was so much funnier than anything else here. She’s rich, privileged, and isn’t shy about throwing that weight around for her devious flans, and frankly I found that to somehow more relatable and humorous than anything Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne did. Her flaws are her downfall as well as the parts of herself that are the most human; the pettiness and self-assurance that she can control everyone and everything and the temper tantrums she throws when she doesn’t get her way, all painting the picture of someone who’s wealth hasn’t actually made her any happier. This subsequently makes her the most vulnerable character in the move which provides more opportunities to land a few good jokes here and there even if, like the rest of the movie, they don’t hit as often as they should. Also, while this is far from the most important thing in a madcap comedy like this, her plan makes absolutely no sense as she STILL seems utterly baffled and furious at the implications that her own carefully crafted plans have, even in the absolute BEST case scenario for her. I’m genuinely curious exactly what she EXPECTED to happen if she “won” this, but I guess that’s just further proof of how much her rage makes her blind to what’s right in front of her.
This feels like a movie that will hit home for a lot of people, but sadly I am not one of them. A bunch of talented people as well as one funny performance is just not enough to make a comedy work as the framing of this movie’s characters as well as the context in which the narrative takes place are just not working the way they expected it to for reasons that should have been pretty obvious, at least as far as I’m concerned. Even if you think this movie’s gonna be in your wheelhouse, I wouldn’t really recommend seeing it in theaters as there’s not enough spectacle or momentum to it that would justify seeing it in the theater. Spend your time finally seeing Blockers if you haven’t already, or even Girls Trip if you need a Tiffany Haddish fix. I may not have been the biggest fan of that movie, but at least stuff happened in that!