I feel like I say the same thing regarding most January comedy releases – that they struggle with wasted potential.
Like a Boss tells the story or Mia and Mel, best friends since Mia and her family took in Mel as a child. Her mother was apparently a drug addict, so she moved in with Mia and her mother. Years later, Mia’s mother passed away and Mel helped Mia through that situation. They are best friends and bonded for life. Together, they started their own cosmetics line and opened their own store with the idea of enhancing the beauty a woman already has, rather than covering ‘imperfections’ like other companies. Mel handles the business portion and Mia handles the creative portion. They have two employees and are struggling financially. Okay, not just struggling, they are almost a half million dollars in debt, probably because they seem to be terrible at working, barely showing up to the office. In general, they seem like not great people - they ruin a friend's baby shower when they sneak into a room to get high.
Along comes Claire Luna, a cosmetics billionaire whose company reinforces the stereotype that women are ugly and need tons of makeup to make them beautiful. Claire offers to eliminate their debt for 49% of their company. With a deal in place to take 51% if the two are unable to work together, she then instigates several situations to drive a wedge between the friends.
The movie is directed by Miguel Arteta who also did Beatriz at Dinner and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The simple story is predictable, which is never a problem in a highly executed comedy. Here, it is only moderately executed. The cast is excellent, so I did have higher expectations.
- Tiffany Haddish plays Mia as loud and creative. She takes nothing from anyone and is only focused on her own interests and desires. One of the things I liked about the Kitchen was that it gave her the opportunity to stretch a bit. Here, she is doing the same character she’s done before – which is fine if that works for you. Typically, it does work for me, I am a fan of hers and I find her hilarious, but it just felt a little too much here. This woman owns a business with her best friend, would she really have no idea about the finances and barely spend any time in the store, preferring to ditch work and get high?
- Rose Byrne plays Mel the one who is paying attention to the business. Except, she’s too afraid to bring up the finances to Mia and now they are $500,000 in debt. Byrne is great in comedies and this character is slightly different than what I had seen her do before. As per comedy usual, she’s so willing to close the deal with Claire that she ends up compromising her ideals and ending up in a huge fight with Mia.
- Salma Hayek plays Claire Luna. Hayek is actually my favorite when she is in broad comedies, I think she’s really good at it. Here, she gets a crazy wig, tan, and teeth to match an over-the-top attitude. She’s great as a comedic villain, but in a weird way, I feel like she wasn’t allowed to go quite far enough. There are moments when you can’t quite tell if she’s the villain or if she’s secretly rooting for the girls. I would have liked to see her go even further to pure villain mode.
- Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge play the two employees at the girls’ store. Porter is magnetic and incredibly watchable and Coolidge is always a scene stealer. At one point, Claire demands they fire Porter and his reaction to the news is epic as he demands everyone witness his MOMENT as he dramatically reacts all the way out of the restaurant, out the door, and down the street. I may have to adopt that for some situations.
- Karan Soni continues to appear in almost everything you see as Claire’s assistant.
- Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang play partners in a competing cosmetics company – the characters are awful and both do a great job of being hilariously clueless.
- Ari Graynor, Jessica St. Clair, and Natasha Rothwell play Mia and Mel’s three friends.
- Jacob Latimore plays Harry, Mia’s understanding booty call.
Overall, I enjoyed most of it, I loved the fact that it was structured like a rom com, but that the friendship between the two leads was the point of the story. It was nice to see that the focus was their friendship as the relationship. I also enjoyed that the point of their company was to enhance natural beauty -it’s a little thing, but it’s nice. With this much power in the cast, it should have been non-stop hilarious. Plus, it’s rated R, so there was no reason to hold back. A little more cutting loose, a little less structured, and a little further into the zany may have done it some good. But hey, as January comedies go, it’s just fine.
5 out of 10 – middle of the road, serviceable January comedy!