As fun as a punchy pink lipstick, “Like a Boss” is a silly, enjoyably raunchy comedy about female friendship. But this isn’t that longwear, high-quality tube you splurged on at Sephora that you’ll continue to see in the bathroom mirror as the night goes on. At just 83 minutes, that somehow feels like even less, this breezy Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne film has all the staying power of a cheap lipgloss, but at least it’s fun while it lasts.
Mia (Haddish) and Mel (Byrne) have been BFFs since middle school, and they’ve turned their friendship and mutual makeup love into a burgeoning beauty brand. Their line, also called Mia and Mel, is beloved but not exactly flourishing, and they’re less than a year away from going under, despite hard work from their small team (Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge). Enter makeup mogul Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), who knows just how little Mia and Mel made last month, as well as how much they owe. She offers to repay their debt and invest almost two million dollars into their company for a 49% stake. The catch is that if one of the women quits, Claire gets 51% and control of their brand. Cue Claire meddling in both the business and their longstanding friendship as she tries to take over the company the two pals have built. She’s so gleefully villainous that she’d twirl a mustache if she had one; instead, she simply curls a perfectly painted lip and arches a meticulously shaped brow.
“Like a Boss” is screamingly funny at times, thanks largely to the talented cast. Byrne continues to be marvelously adept at both comedy and drama, and Haddish gets a laugh nearly every time she opens her mouth, with loose delivery and perfect comedic timing. I am always here for a Coolidge and a nonsequitur, and “Like a Boss” gives it to me like a personalized palette. Unsurprisingly, Porter is a scene-stealer, or he would be if Haddish didn’t wrench it right back. But for all the work the cast does, Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly‘s script and Miguel Arteta‘s direction can’t sustain the film in its less funny moments. If there aren’t jokes for a line or two, the movie feels flat and like a different experience entirely. These scenes, or moments within scenes, grind “Like a Boss” briefly to a halt before it bounces onto the next gag.
Though no one is coming to a Tiffany Haddish comedy for verisimilitude, “Like a Boss” seems painfully unaware of worlds that are key to its plot, like e-commerce and makeup production. No one questions how Claire knows the exact amount of Mia and Mel’s sales, even though that would likely require hacking and/or corporate espionage. When they need to, the two boss ladies simply spin up an entirely new line in a flash, slick packaging and all, just in the backroom of their small storefront. That’s generally not how this works, and no one thought to consult someone in the industry, or they decided that no one cares (and they’re likely correct).
What “Like a Boss” does get right is its depiction of female friendship. It doesn’t just spout Etsy-worthy aphorisms between yeast infection jokes; instead, it gets the rhythms and depths of BFFS just right. The audience feels both the strength and fragility of the relationship between Mia and Mel (as well as their larger girl gang played by Ari Graynor, Jessica St. Clair, and Natasha Rothwell), and it aligns with the real-life experience with their friends. This feels true, despite all its silliness. Part of it is due to the script — with what feels like a lot of improv from the cast — but the chemistry between Haddish and Byrne is key. It’s also so refreshing — and so rare — to see an interracial friendship on-screen between women where there’s no imbalance of power (or screen time).
Best consumed after a few (pitchers of) mimosas at a girls brunch, “Like a Boss” is going to stick with you for less time than the hangover will. It lacks the truly memorable scenes that make similar best friend films like “Girls’ Trip” and “Bridesmaids” such enduring hits (perhaps not coincidentally starring Haddish and Byrne, respectively). It’s often as messy as its heroines, but it’s almost as much fun to spend time with as they would be, at least while you’re in its presence. [C]