Written by: Joe Lollo
Some movies are just so bad that they are endlessly amusing. Like a Boss, a January 2020 release directed by Miguel Arteta, definitely fits the bill. While it has a decent premise, it’s clearly ruined by lazy writing and a slightly unoriginal plot. However, I’m not afraid to admit that I really enjoyed watching this the whole way through, and I believe that the film has an important message and can be a good one to watch for Womxn’s Month.
The film follows Mia and Mel, played by Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne respectively, two best friends who run their own small business, a cosmetics company they built from the ground up. They’re basically the typical “odd couple” of a comedy duo: Mia’s the funny and creative one, Mel the reserved and sarcastic one. They’re doing well, at least according to their income, but everything changes when beauty mogul Claire Luna, played by Salma Hayek, buys a very large share of their company. Luna is determined right off the bat to destroy Mia & Mel’s friendship and company and give it all to herself, and tries throughout the film to ruin their lives. I don’t want to spoil anything, but her attempts at getting this sort of control over the company are pathetic and end up ruining her own life.
Besides the linear plot, that feels like The Devil Wears Prada but for a newer generation, the film is ruined by several other things. The most frustrating part of this film, however, is the misuse and underuse of a terrific cast. Haddish and Byrne, two terrific comedic actresses, try the hardest to sell their characters and make something out of nothing, yet they are only held up by their accidental humor that comes from lackluster writing and production on the team’s side. Their chemistry is good, but feels forced due to poor dialogue. Salma Hayek is unfortunately not given enough to work with either, but you have to give her credit for at least trying to have fun with her role and going all-out to play the part of a Miranda Priestly-style evil cosmetics mogul – crazy wig, bright clothing, fake nails and all.
I think the worst under-utilization, however, is that of Billy Porter. Despite his wide range of acting abilities, he’s never really found his niche. In this film, he’s hopelessly typecast yet again as Barrett, Mia and Mel’s gay assistant. His entire character is based on the enduring stereotypes that all gays are sassy, physically weak, sarcastic, and love Broadway and fashion, and that’s it.
Despite being an awesome actor and performer, he is given absolutely nothing to work with from the get-go, and it just feels like a mismatch of all of the roles he’s played before. The lazy attempts at diverse representation in this film ultimately make Porter’s inclusion feel more stereotypical than other similar characters he’s done.
Despite all of the bad things, however, there is something magical about this entire film that makes it the fun kind of bad movie. The entire atmosphere is bright and colorful, something that clearly supports the film’s tone, and you have to give credit to the entire cast for having fun with their roles. I also believe that despite all of its flaws, there’s an important message for womxn – and everyone – to get out of this film.
Not only should people learn to control their lives freely and be independent from others’ decisions, but they should also take ownership of their lives and actions, which is a good message for a movie to have, even one that’s mediocre or bad besides that. A quote from Haddish’s character that really stuck with me is “don’t live your life for other people – live it for you” – something that I believe can really resonate with anyone who watches it.
It’s nice when a bad movie is still enjoyable and still has a good message, and Like a Boss is a clear example of one that does.