Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Fernando Leon de Aranoa
Stars: Javier Bardem, Oscar de la Fuente, Manolo Solo, Almudena Amor, Fernando Albizu.
From Spain comes this award winning biting and cynical workplace comedy/drama that explores themes of power, ambition, injustice, gender issues, capitalism and corporate greed, abuse, and toxic workplace relations.
The film is set in the Blancos Basculas factory, a family owned firm that makes scales, both small and industrial strength, but they also serve as a potent metaphor throughout the film. The factory is on a shortlist for an important local business award, and the firm’s manager Blanco (Javier Bardem) is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the judging committee. He often refers to the factory and his employees as one big happy family, but we learn that this is self-serving. In the meantime he has to resolve many problems in order to keep things moving smoothly during a very busy week, and he begins to cross an ethical line and interferes in the lives of some of his employees and makes some morally dubious choices.
Longtime employee Jose (Oscar de la Fuente, from the 2019 thriller The Silence Of The Marsh, etc) has been fired and sets up camp on the vacant lot opposite the factory gates to loudly protest the injustice. Blanco’s longtime friend and the factory’s production manager Miralles (Manolo Solo) is obsessed with his wife’s infidelity and begins making costly mistakes that affect the company’s deliveries. And Liliana (Almudena Amor in her first major screen role), an attractive new intern, catches his eye and he sets out to seduce her, despite him being old enough to be her father. And as it turns out she is the daughter of a an old family friend. Blanco has a habit of seducing his interns and then discarding them after one month. But here Liliana is determined to turn the tables to her advantage.
Director Fernando Leon de Aranoa (A Perfect Day, etc) also wrote the script and he deftly juggles the various plot strands and his colourful cast of characters. There are some awkward and uncomfortable moments throughout as de Aranoa explores his themes and focuses on Blanco’s manipulations to ensure everything moves according to his wishes. But he gets the balance right as the tone is also leavened by many moments of humour and running gags involving a set of scales that won’t balance.
De Aranoa previously worked with Bardem on the drama Loving Pablo, and draws a great performance from his star, who is virtually on screen for the entire duration of the film. Bardem brings charm to his performance, but he also captures Blanco’s increasing sense of desperation, ruthlessness, coldness and smarmy insincerity beneath his respectable, avuncular exterior. Amor has a captivating presence as the seductive and ambitious Liliana. De la Feuntes brings an edgy and increasingly unhinged quality to his performance as the disenchanted former employee railing against a system that is unfairly aligned against him. Fernando Albizu brings touches of comic relief through his role as Roman, the disingenuous security guard at the factory gates.
The Good Boss has been nicely shot by cinematographer Pau Esteve Birba who has shot the factory scenes in lighter tones that somehow belie the darker tone of the material. The production design from Cesar Maccaron is also very good.
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