Is this a film for women? Review of the film Like A Boss (2020)

I give my thoughts on:

  • Films in which women actually speak to other women
  • Films in which women aren’t just chasing men
  • How apparently feminist films can undermine their own message

This review contains spoilers.

A woman’s film?

Yes, I am going to be looking at this as a film aimed at women.  I want to evaluate the sort of films that are supposed to interest women and be made for women.

I say made for women because this film was not made by women.

It stars three women: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek.

However, the screenplay was written by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly.  It was directed by Miguel Arteta.

Women on screen

I have just discovered that, even in rom-coms (which are aimed at women) where the lead character is a woman, an average of 58% of the dialogue is spoken by men.  It was therefore a pleasant surprise to watch a film where that is definitely not the case.  In Like A Boss, most of the named characters are women and they talk largely to each other.  Yay.

This is one of the few films I have seen in which the leading characters are women and they’re not spending their time worrying about whether they do or don’t have a boyfriend.  It was refreshing.

That’s not to say it’s a perfect film.  It’s not.  By a long way.

The premise of the film

To give a quick overview:

Mia and Mel have been best friends all their lives and even live together.  They run a cosmetics company together but Mia is the creative force behind it and Mel is trying to run the business side without stepping on Mia’s toes.  The company is in debt and Mel persuades Mia to go into partnership with ruthless cosmetics mogul, Claire Luna.  Despite the warnings signs, both women sign the contract and then have to fight to keep hold of both their principles, their business and their friendship when Luna sets out to swindle them.  You can imagine how it ends.

Review of Like A Boss

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve come up with some of the best qualities of the film and some of the things that I felt didn’t work.

Things I liked about Like A Boss:

At no point did any of the women dwell on the fact that they did or didn’t have a partner.  If they had one, he was only mentioned in passing, and if they didn’t have one, it wasn’t important.

Working women were shown to have a home life and a circle of friends without showing that they were close to the edge because they couldn’t handle a family and a career.

Both female leads were sexually confident women and the film shows them engaging in liaisons without angsting over them.  It was simply a part of their lives and not something they obsessed about.

It had a positive message that it was trying to spread, both about changing the way marketing campaigns constantly tell women to cover their ‘flaws’ and about appreciating those who are there for you when you need them. 

It had some funny moments, usually when the two leads were talking to each other.

The villain – though very much a pantomime villain – was clever and driven, and made her choices consciously.  She was living the life she wanted and was doing it unapologetically.

Things I didn’t like about Like A Boss:

Even by the end, I wasn’t sure how the title reflects the film.  Is it because they want to be their own boss?  Is it because they take the evil Barbie-doll and her cosmetics company down like bosses?

The tone of the whole thing was incredibly uneven.  It could have been a really interesting character drama about friendship, the beauty industry and what it means to be an unmarried woman in your thirties.  It wasn’t, though, because it quite fancied being a pantomime but didn’t properly commit to it.

Despite its good intentions – trying to spread the message that make-up should accentuate women’s features and not just cover them up – it didn’t dig deep enough into that issue to really make much of a comment on it.  The scene in which the two women are directly contrasted to the two men, each putting make-up on a model, was telling.  It wasn’t funny.  It felt like it was trying to make a point about the male gaze and sexualising women, but women already know this, they live it.  And the plot didn’t challenge that as directly as it could have.  Those men were allowed to carry on doing what they were doing, supported by a population of women who bought into that patriarchal ideal.  That was very clear, too: it is women who are buying these things, so women are the problem.  I understand that it’s a complex issue about social values and ingrained sexism, but the film does rather undermine its own message by not really choosing a side.

I didn’t like the obligatory weed-smoking scene that seems to be in all modern American comedies.  It’s there to show that these two women haven’t ‘grown up’ like the rest of their friends, who are married with children.  However, by doing that, it undermines one of the film’s greatest assets.  It should have been a film which promoted the idea of unmarried women living happy, adult lives and being successful in various ways.  The childish hiding-out-in-the-bedroom-to-smoke-weed scene didn’t fit with the rest of the plot.

One of my biggest problems was the fact that I didn’t believe either of the leads were stupid enough to sign a contract without reading it.  Seriously.  They didn’t have any idea how this business venture was going to go.  They had no idea of what their role was or what their rights were.  You’d think they’d ask a lawyer or something, if they weren’t sure, before signing over their business.  Or, you know, ask any questions…

Apparently a substantial period of time passed during the course of the film.  There were no indicators of that.  As far as I’m concerned, this all happened in about a week and a half.

Let me know what you thought of Like A Boss

If you’ve seen Like A Boss, let me know what you think.  I’d be interested on your views, particularly about whether it was a positive film for women or not.

Contact me on Twitter @AlisonJanetBro1 and tell me your thoughts.

See you next week

Hope you’ll come back and read next week’s post.

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