It’s a promising premise. In the Age of Botox, the cosmetics industry presents rich pickings for the satirist and the script is determined to exploit them, aided by the film’s Puerto Rican-born director, Miguel Arteta. He directed Hayek in Beatriz at Dinner, about a Mexican-American massage therapist who finds herself at a dinner party full of rich and condescending right-wingers out to impress a billionaire property developer whose idea of a happy holiday is to go out slaughtering rhinos. While it incorporated a few explosions, it was basically a verbal duel. This time, he brings out the heavy artillery. You will laugh. If not, why not?
Byrne’s Mel Paige is supposed to be the practical half of MM, the company she runs with Haddish’s Mia Carter. She looks after MM’s financial wellbeing while Mia concentrates on coming up with new additions to their array of blushers, brighteners, liners, shadow-makers, colours and non-colours. But they have gone over budget by opening a shop to augment their online sales and Mel hasn’t been able to bring herself to confront Mia with the bad news. For one thing, she can hardly get a word in. When Mia isn’t giving her personality yet another workout, the company’s employees, Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge, are rolling out their own comedy routines. It’s like watching a week’s worth of Saturday Night sketches back-to-back.
Hayek’s Claire Luna makes her move after coming across MM’s bestseller, the One Night Stand kit, which comprises everything you need to put on a brave face after spending the night in a stranger’s bed. Hayek has chosen to have a makeover for the role. Not only does she wear a henna wig and a set of blinding caps on her teeth, she looks as if she’s been dipped bodily into a compound of pancake make-up and tanning lotion. Coolidge gets it right when she remarks at one point that she resembles an angry carrot.
She wastes no time in offering to pay off MM’s debt in exchange for a controlling interest in it. Mel, who is proving not to be so practical after all, says yes straightaway but Mia holds out. At least she holds out long enough for the script to announce its main theme – the importance of sisterhood.
Can Mel and Mia’s lifelong friendship withstand the influence of a woman who believes that friendship has no place in business, or anywhere else?
A few scatological gags are scattered through the script and Arteta lays on the slapstick with Haddish handling most of it. You get the impression that he’s trying to make another Bridesmaids but that his nerve and his inspiration keep failing him.
The three leads are backed up by an ensemble cast out to supply more mini-sketches in lieu of characterisations. Karan Soni (Dopinder from Deadpool) plays Claire’s assistant, Josh, who’s studying to become bitchier than she is, and stand-up comic Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen run a rival cosmetics company with a website calling on like-minded chauvinists to rate their dates.
You have to give the film credit for the uncompromising nature of its main message. It’s a chick flick with no time for romance. Mel and Mia put their friendship ahead of everything, including the exclusively sexual relationships they have with the men in their lives, but that, too, is overdone. Mia prides herself on the fact that they’re behaving like men. Sadly, they’re the kind of men they themselves wouldn’t like.