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The Good Boss review - Javier Bardem at his creepy best | reviews, news & interviews

The Good Boss review - Javier Bardem at his creepy best

The Good Boss review - Javier Bardem at his creepy best

A dark Spanish workplace satire with too many plotlines

Meet the micro-manager: Javier Bardem as Julio BlancoReposado PC/The Media Pro Studio

The Good Boss's Julio Blanco (Javier Bardem) is not short of belief in his talents as a leader. Not just good, he evidently thinks he is the best boss ever. We watch him on the prowl, exerting influence and power over his family business, micro-managing everything and everyone. 

His philosophy is that there's no task involving a staff member – or a member of their families – that's too petty or too personal for him be involved in, too. And it's his genius, of course, that ends up solving every problem. He justifies his actions because the buck stops with him: “Your problems become my problems because they affect the company,” he tells one employee’s wife, thoroughly deserving the slap he receives.

The fact that Basculas Blanco, the company Blanco owns and runs, manufactures industrial scales gives endless opportunities for him to spin metaphors about natural justice and keeping things in balance. This warrants his flow of flowery rhetoric encouraging perfectionism from his staff and his interference-remedying outcomes that fall short. 

In two hours, 'The Good Boss' crams in enough episodes for a series

One can understand why Bardem loved the script that his friend, director Fernando León de Aranoa, wrote for him. In Spain, the film has been highly successful. At the 36th Goya Awards, it broke all previous records, receiving no fewer than 20 award nominations and winning in six categories.

There's a nice irony here. Blanco is desperate for his company to win a regional government award for business excellence and will stop at nothing to win it. It is as if he believes the winning of this award will air-brush all the company’s problems away. But everything that happens in the space of a week looks as if it will thwart him.

The Good Boss is a very dark comedy. The resemblance of the factory gate to the main entrance to Auschwitz cannot be coincidental. There are flights into absurdity – the security guard critiques the rhyming schemes of the protest banners he sees from his post. More urgent is the film's hard-hitting social commentary. Gangs of unemployed young workers provide a backdrop of violence, and the mutually disdainful relationship between the Spanish and North African workers simmers with racial tension.

For the older generation of employees, there is the ever-present fear of losing their jobs. Add to that several permutations of intra- and extra-marital and inter-generational sexual tensions and frustrations, and it is clear that this film combines many registers. It mostly does so effectively. The busy, occasionally Nyman-ish musical score by Zeltia Montes (which won one of the Goyas) keeps things chugging along.

But there are too many plotlines. The viewer is sent like a pinball from one situation to another, wave after wave of them rolling in for Blanco to deal with. In two hours, The Good Boss crams in enough episodes for a series.Among the multiplicity of characters who make a strong impression are Blanco’s wife Adela (Sonia Almarcha, pictured above), the ambitious intern Liliana (Almudena Amor), and the constantly conflicted Miralles (Manolo Solo). They make their mark despite appearing only occasionally

The Good Boss is designed to be an acting tour de force for Bardem, and it's certainly that. We see him switch from one private moment where he repays loyalty with total ruthlessness, and then watch as he switches straight into full-on success mode, launching one odious corporate-speak platitude after another. It's a memorably dominating performance.

The resemblance of the factory gate to the main entrance to Auschwitz cannot be coincidental

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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