Tag Archives: Miguel Arteta

Bad Company

Like a Boss

by George Wolf

For years now, we’ve seen Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish each be plenty funny.

Three years ago, Salma Hayek and director Miguel Arteta teamed up for the delightful Beatriz at Dinner.

All four now come together for Like A Boss, and what sounds promising quickly becomes a painful 83-minute exercise in tired contrivance and weak sauce girl power struggling mightily to earn its label as a “comedy.”

Haddish and Byrne are Mia and Mel, lifelong friends trying to keep their cosmetic company afloat when they’re tossed a million-dollar lifeline by makeup tycoon Claire Luna (Hayek).

Luna’s true aim is to break up the besties and steal their company (whaaat?), so our heroines must learn some sappy lessons about friendship before they can hatch their plan to turn the tables and show Luna who’s really in charge.

The debut screenplay from Sam Pittman and Adam Cole-Kelly is barely ready for prime time, much less the big screen. What little laughter there is comes courtesy of the supporting cast (Billy Porter, Jennifer Coolidge) while the leads are put through a string of hot-pepper-eating, song-and-dance-routine nonsense.

Entirely forced and sadly wasteful of the talent at hand, this film is less like a boss and more like a mess the CEO tells someone else to clean up.

Just Desserts

Beatriz at Dinner

by George Wolf

Have you ever owned the worst car in the parking lot of some fancy event?

Then you’ll immediately identify with Beatriz.

Beatriz is a holistic therapist finishing up a massage at the elegant home of her friend Cathy, when her car won’t start. Cathy (Connie Britton), over the mild objections of her husband Grant (David Warshofsky), invites Beatriz to stay for the dinner party that evening. Alex (Jay Duplass) and Doug (John Lithgow), two of Grant’s business associates, roll up with their wives (Amy Landecker, Chloe Sevigny), and it isn’t long before Beatriz is mistaken for the hired help.

Writer Mike White and director Miguel Arteta, after teaming for Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl, reunite for the first time in fifteen years with a clearly defined purpose.

As the dinner gets increasingly awkward, Doug is revealed as a narcissistic billionaire mogul reveling in the obnoxious ass-kissing of his company. Beatriz, egged on by multiple glasses of wine, confronts him, and suddenly it’s Trump and the resistance taking dessert in the living room.

The comedy is dark and biting, the performances sharp and well-defined. Stumbling only when it trades sly observations for broader speechifying, Beatriz at Dinner is plenty satisfying.


It Could Be Worse

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

by Hope Madden

I recently attended the advance screening of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and I have to admit, my own day had been pretty craptastic. What I really wanted to do was drink to excess. But instead, I sat in the dark and watched as Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner parented four children through a crisis-riddled day.

Taken from Judith Viorst’s much beloved children’s book of the same name, the film follows Alexander on the day before and the day of his 12th birthday. At birthday-eve dinner, as Alexander recounts the woes of his miserable life – including accidentally setting his science class on fire while horrifying the girl of his dreams – each of his siblings and parents announces a wonderful life event that happened to coincide with Alexander’s misery.

So, at midnight, he makes himself a birthday Sunday and wishes his too-perfect family would have a bad day.

Well, he realizes the next day that he’s cursed each and every one of them.

And as obvious as the story is, it’s handled here with restraint and dignity.

Director Miguel Arteta – who directed one of my favorite little indies, Chuck and Buck – never panders or condescends. He has respect for his characters, his story, and his audience. It is amazing what a difference that makes in a family film.

Each character is drawn with some depth. Few actors are asked to mug for the camera. Each crisis is, of course, wildly implausible, but somehow this film and this cast pulls it off.

The cast itself helps. Carell and Garner never stoop. They are invested in these characters, and though both parents are too good to be true, they also both have dimension and faults.

As the titular Alexander, young, lisping Ed Oxenbould (Wow! That’s quite a moniker!) turns in an enjoyable performance as layered as the film could allow. He easily anchors the movie.

Plus, one outstanding cameo from the always brilliant Jennifer Coolidge.

Yes, things turn out OK. Great, in fact, and if you have a family that loves you, everything will be all right for you, too.

Beer is great, too, though. I’m not going to lie to you.