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maryann johanson | takeaway only

Like a Boss movie review: it doesn’t quite fall down on the job

Like a Boss yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This instantly forgettable fluff lazily relies on too many unfunny slapstick and grossout tangents. But real humor blossoms in the terrific performances and in a fast, funny, and surprising feminism.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies about women…
I’m “biast” (con): …but I’m always leery of studio comedies
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, female coscreenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

God help me, but I didn’t hate Like a Boss.

I mean, yes. A pile of instantly forgettable fluff it may be, this tale of two lifelong besties, Mia (Tiffany Haddish: The Angry Birds Movie 2) and Mel (Rose Byrne: Juliet, Naked), entrepreneurs whose friendship and dedication to independence for their cosmetics brand is challenged when Big Makeup wants to buy them out. It also wouldn’t be unfair to call the script — by Sam Pitman, Adam Cole-Kelly, and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel — lazy, falling back way too much on unnecessary slapstick and grossouts that aren’t funny and, much more offensively, are frequently completely tangential. Take those unnecessary asides away, and this very short movie would barely qualify as a feature… but that’s still no reason for them to be here.

Like a Boss Salma Hayek

Like a peacock?

And yet… real humor does blossom, in the terrific performances of the amusing cast. Haddish and Byrne bring a warm, comfortable, teasing sisterhood to their realistically complex friendship. Billy Porter (Noel) and Jennifer Coolidge (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip), as Mel and Mia’s employees, are bright and bubbly. Salma Hayek (The Hitman’s Bodyguard), as the corporate type who wants to glom onto the popularity of Mel and Mia’s company, is less than wholly villainous, her over-the-top va-va-vooming a knowing caricature of narrow notions of what “success” has been allowed to look like in women… and of how women can be trapped by that.

In fact, the only real villain is an outmoded, sexist conception of womanhood and femininity. (Why, it’s almost like you can see which bits were written by men, and which by a woman.) Where Like a Boss gets fast, funny, and surprisingly feminist is in its refutation of Hayek’s sharkiness, in its embrace of cosmetics as something fun that women use for their own enjoyment, and in its celebration of women’s support of one another as powerful boosters of winning on our own terms. I was not expecting to see anything quite so progressive here.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2020’s other releases.



yellow light 3 stars

Like a Boss (2020) | directed by Miguel Arteta
US/Can release: Jan 10 2020
UK/Ire release: Feb 21 2020

MPAA: rated R for language, crude sexual material, and drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references, drug misuse)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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