Like a Boss
2020, R, 83 min. Directed by Miguel Arteta. Starring Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek, Billy Porter, Jennifer Coolidge, Karan Soni, Jessica St. Clair, Natasha Rothwell, Ari Graynor, Jacob Latimore.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Jan. 10, 2020
Not since a barefooted Raquel Welch battled dinosaurs in a prehistoric bikini back in One Million Years B.C. has a female bosom dominated an otherwise woefully underdeveloped movie as in this cheerless comedy about bitchery in the cosmetics business, with the amply endowed Hayek glamping it up as ruthless mogul Claire Luna, who’s hellbent on gobbling up a financially struggling small beauty company owned by longtime besties Mel (Byrne) and Mia (Haddish). Coiffed in spitfire-red curls and decked out in eye-popping outfits revealing various states of décolletage, Hayek imperiously trots through the movie on platform heels like a diminutive Rita Hayworth intent on world domination, accessorizing her cartoony version of corporate womanhood with a golf club that she occasionally uses to assert her alpha authority with a glass-smashing tantrum. And then there’s that inescapable bosom. When a smells-a-rat Mia advises the conniving Claire not to worry her pretty little head about an aspect of a business deal, the villainous magnate retorts, “My head isn't little. It's just that my breasts are humangous,” with Hayek applying a thicker-than-usual Latin accent to pronounce the last word in a punchline teetering on political incorrectness in so many ways.
Aside from the committee-written script with no coherent perspective, the trouble with Like a Boss is that it never crudely outrages. It’s a bust in so many ways. The halfhearted gender and cultural political incorrectness of Hayek’s ridiculous character makes for halfhearted laughs, and that’s being generous. She could have chomped down on the role, but the movie holds her back and focuses more on the deteriorating personal and business dynamic between Mia and Mel. It’s nice to witness the notion of female bonding here if not a completely believable enactment of it, though there’s an undeniable rapport between Haddish and Byrne. But without a jester nemesis with whom they can comically parry joke for joke, the two – who are no strangers to outrageous and crude humor (Girls Trip, Bridesmaids) – falter in the laugh department, sometimes embarrassingly so. (An early scene involving a blunt, a sleeping infant, and a ponytail extension sets the unfunny tone.) Even the fearlessly over-the-top Porter is constrained here, though he has a deliciously drama-queen scene that he most likely insisted upon, if only to entertain himself. After Mia and Mel unceremoniously fire Porter’s makeup mixologist during a bistro luncheon, he insists the two witness his tragic moment as he hammily exits the restaurant if he were playing Medea. Upon the basis of those few silly minutes, Porter proves he’s the boss in Like a Boss.