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Review: There’s not much to like in ‘Like a Boss’

  • COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES
                                Rose Byrne, right, plays the co-owner of a struggling cosmetics company and Salma Hayek, left, plays an industry maven in “Like a Boss.”

    COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES

    Rose Byrne, right, plays the co-owner of a struggling cosmetics company and Salma Hayek, left, plays an industry maven in “Like a Boss.”

“LIKE A BOSS”

**

(R, 1:23)

If there’s one word to describe the girl-power comedy “Like a Boss,” it’s incomprehensible. Structurally, industrially, philosophically and emotionally incomprehensible. What should have been an easy breezy buddy comedy is rather a flabbergasting tone salad. Watching it feels like trying to read a half-completed Mad Lib: Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish, cosmetics … Salma Hayek, corporate takeover, Jennifer Coolidge, vagina jokes? You get the gist.

From scene to scene and moment to moment, “Like a Boss” is structurally indecipherable. Did writers Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly (Danielle Sanchez-Witzel gets a “story by” credit) never write the scenes that would have made this make sense, or were they excised posthumously and lost to the sands of time? We may never know.

Existential questions also plague “Like a Boss,” such as how on earth did indie darling Miguel Arteta, whose last two feature films were the complex character studies “Duck Butter” and “Beatriz at Dinner,” direct this? Not to begrudge any working director a studio paycheck, but his imprint cannot be found anywhere within these awkward rhythms, befuddling beats and lazily framed shots.

Byrne and Haddish make for a fine onscreen pair, had their characters been written at all. Mel (Byrne) and Mia (Haddish) are roommates, business partners and besties, life partners since girlhood who have gone on to create their own makeup line, complete with bricks-and-mortar storefront. Their friendship, forged in the fires of neglectful and deceased parents, is put to the test when chaotic cosmetics maven Claire Luna (Hayek) sweeps into their lives with promises of lots and lots of money.

With a carrot orange wig, fake teeth, colored contacts and an adorably threatening demeanor, whatever Hayek is doing (be it pronouncing Etsy “eetsy” or whacking flower arrangements with a golf club), it’s working. Her unhinged characterization of the over-the-top Claire Luna (“It means clear, BRILLIANT moon,” she declares) is just a shade off one of Tilda Swinton’s high-camp performances in Bong Joon Ho’s “Snowpiercer” and “Okja.”

Too bad there’s just not enough of her.

There’s not enough of anything in “Like a Boss,” which runs a scanty 83 minutes. While less is often more when it comes to running times these days, there’s no character development, and this thing feels torn to shreds. A scene where the pals have to fire their beloved product manufacturer Barrett (Billy Porter) cuts right from his “tragic moment” to a margarita-fueled gal-pal birthday party, where the conversation seems to indicate that we, the audience, have missed out on some major developments in the burgeoning rift between friends.

“Like a Boss” wants to deal with the fraught ways in which women value themselves externally, though careers or children. But it doesn’t say anything profound. The message about valuing friendship is sweet, until you dig a bit deeper. In a climax ripped right from the Amy Schumer vehicle “I Feel Pretty,” the film ends up saying that friendship should be like makeup: enhancing your best qualities while making you feel great.

It’s a nice idea, if only it wasn’t couched in capitalist consumerism. The ideas are there, but “Like a Boss” is too much of a mess for any of these messages to leave a mark.

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