“Under capitalism, women’s societal progress is often confused with putting women in positions of power that enabled them to do basically the exact same toxic things that male CEOs have done forever, but you know, it’s okay because #girlboss.”Lindsay Ellis, The Dangerous Myth of the #Girlboss
Is Like A Boss good? No. It’s a grab bag of jokes that throws everything at the wall and hopes something sticks. The structure and story is so thin that the film comes in just beneath the 90 minute mark. Does it engage with the damaging societal expectations of women in the business world, even when running companies that almost exclusively cater to women? Not really, but Selma Hayek carries around a golf club and occasionally smashes stuff.
The film follows the adventures of Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne), platonic life partners (no homo) who run their own makeup company together as well as sharing a house, all their friends, and a bathroom (but seriously, no homo). Their company is good, but massively in debt. Makeup mogul Claire Luna (Selma Hayek) offers to clear their debt for a controlling stake in their company, but Mia and Mel negotiate for her to only take 49% of the company, on the condition that if Mia and Mel fall out, Claire would take control of the company. Cue Selma Hayek engaging in increasingly bizarre hijinks to break up these BFFs (still no homo).
In all this, there’s definitely a story to be told about struggling small businesses relying on charity from billionaires to succeed in an increasingly stratified financial class system, but Like A Boss isn’t interested in telling it. Even the idea of being “like a boss” in the business or even Lonely Island sense isn’t really explored in the movie — the film’s original title was Limited Partners (once again, no homo). Mia and Mel oscillate wildly between being the straight man and the wild one — Mia is the chaotic creative one but acts as the grounded, sane one in business scenes, while Mel is the money girl who is driven crazy by the idea of financial success. Selma Hayek is one creative choice away from doing an evil cackle and spends a significant chunk of the film dressed like a deranged Daphne from Scooby Doo.
But at the same time, that slapdash nature gives the film some of its best jokes. A recent mother raging about how much she hates Caillou; Billy Porter doing *the most* when he is fired as part of Claire’s evil plans; a surprisingly nuanced (but screamed) discussion of black hair as a stoned Mia pulls off her ponytail before jumping off a roof and into a pool — they’re not moments of groundbreaking comedic brilliance, but I laughed.
Bizarrely, Like A Boss provides the best criticism of itself within the film. While trying to undercut the friendship of Mia and Mel, villainous Claire buys up a rival make-up company Get Some, run by two straight dudes (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O Yang, and again, no homo). Get Some’s argument is that since women only wear makeup for men, who better to run a makeup company than the men they’re catering to? The makeup and advertising they produce is crude and excessive. Mia and Mel, on the other hand, design makeup to highlight strengths instead of hide flaws, even pitching a new collection called Proud (no homo). The difference between the two companies is meant to point out the problem of male entitlement to female spaces and businesses: men assume they know better than their female audience, while female creatives create a more subtle, nuanced product through empathising with their customer and having lived experience as women.
Like A Boss was written, directed, and produced by men.
Like A Boss is now showing in Australian cinemas.
Tansy Gardam is a writer and TV producer who can and will lecture you for hours about the music from all three How To Train Your Dragon films. She is one half of hypothetical film and music podcast Pitch Shift, and offers an endless barrage of unwanted opinions on Twitter as @tansyclipboard.