DIRECTOR: Fernando León de Aranoa

CAST: Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Almudena Amor, Óscar de la Fuente, Sonia Almarcha, Fernando Albizu, Tarik Rmili, Rafa Castejón, Celso Bugallo, Francesc Orella, Martín Páez, Yaël Belicha, Mara Guil, Nao Albet, María de Nati

RUNNING TIME: 120 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A manipulative boss (Bardem) attempts to resolve his company’s many problems before an award committee arrives…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Despite becoming a true international A-lister, it’s still nice to see Javier Bardem return to his roots in Spanish cinema every now and then, even when he perhaps has bigger and more productive things to do with his career. The actor is undoubtedly the biggest selling point of The Good Boss, a workplace satire that was put forward as Spain’s official entry for the most recent International Feature Film Oscar (it wasn’t nominated in the end), but Bardem’s magnetic presence isn’t the only thing holding this film together; it is a brutal, darkly funny, and occasionally heavy-handed farce that keeps you invested enough throughout its many amusing situations.

Bardem plays Julio Blanco, the head honcho of a successful factory that produces industrial scales, and is currently in the running for an award that recognises business excellence. Blanco likes to think of himself as an open father figure to his numerous employees, helping them out with problems in both their workplace and their personal lives, but in reality Blanco is as self-serving and casually insensitive as other privileged men in his powerful position. The film follows Blanco over the course of a week, wherein he deals with a multitude of problems that must be solved before the inevitable arrival of the award committee. These include, but aren’t exactly limited to, disgruntled ex-employee José (Óscar de la Fuente) setting up a one-man protest camp opposite the factory building, his production manager and childhood mate Miralles (Manolo Solo) having an emotional breakdown after suspecting his wife of having an affair, and an ambitious young intern named Liliana (Almudena Amor) who Blanco just cannot help himself around, with damaging results.

Billed as a dark satire of capitalism at its seediest, The Good Boss certainly hits most of the expected targets one would assume a movie like this would aim for. Themes such as greed, corruption, inequality, immorality et al are all touched upon here by writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa (who previously worked with Bardem on Mondays in the Sun and Escobar), often in ways which you might have seen before in other business satires from American Psycho to In the Company of Men, but are executed well enough here by the Spanish filmmaker to stay interesting despite the familiarity. That being said, de Aranoa tends to drill the point so far into the ground that most traces of subtlety are virtually absent, including a recurring scales metaphor to indicate balance in this anti-hero’s professional and personal life that is well and truly worn through by the end of the movie. It is a very straightforward movie, in the sense that you know exactly what it’s trying to say about the cutthroat nature of business and its many darker subsidies, without prodding too much further beneath the surface.

What it lacks in subtlety and even fresh commentary, The Good Boss makes up for with a sly and playful tone that is funny when it needs to be (there is a cute running gag about José’s protest signs not rhyming all that well), and painfully uncomfortable in a number of other parts. When certain reveals about particular characters come to light, you can practically feel the knots being tied in your stomach, all while the film applies two-fold its dastardly sense of humour that you feel slightly uneasy laughing at, especially when given some of the context. Most of the enjoyment from watching all this entertaining material really does come from Javier Bardem’s excellent lead performance, as the actor is clearly having a blast playing this smarmy, predatory, grey-haired snake of a creature who’s less Michael Scott and more Mr. Burns in terms of fictional bosses. Bardem piles on the charm and charisma that commands respect from just about everyone around him, but as his actions become less sincere and more petty (even, at times, violent), the actor allows you to see the absolute toll that is being taken upon him as more and more things do not go his way, until all that remains is an absolute shell of a human being.

Bardem is worth the trip to the cinema alone, but the movie itself is an entertaining enough ride to further justify that visit, with the slyly fun tone neatly complimenting its lead actor’s fiercely committed presence. By no means does it rewrite the book on corporate satire, nor does it even say anything all that new about the corrupt malpractices of capitalist figures or the seething class and racial inequality from the bottom upwards, but The Good Boss is fairly comfortable with just being a good movie about a not-very-good boss.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Good Boss is an entertaining corporate satire that benefits from a slyly playful tone and a hugely magnetic lead turn by Javier Bardem, although it wears its obvious targets on its sleeve and occasionally removes all subtlety in order to drill its central messages and metaphors unnecessarily deep into the ground.

The Good Boss is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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