- Colin Fraser
THE GOOD BOSS
THREE STARS A factory owner is in line for a prestigious award for excellence. Standing in the way are disgruntled staff, an ambitious intern and a dead body.
COMEDY DRAMA Spain (Spanish language) #THEGOODBOSS
Starring Javier Bardem, Alumdena Amor
In these politically charged times, little is what it seems, certainly not the stories people of influence tell us about themselves. And so it is for Blanco (Bardem), the owner of a manufacturing business in Spain. He’s a good boss who, as we quickly learn at a staff pep talk, thinks of everyone as family. If they’re in trouble, he’s got their back. We also learn, just as quickly, how self-serving this is. His business is up for a meaningful award which would complete the trophy wall at his home. Blanco already installed flattering light where the award will sit - he now needs to win.
Unsurprisingly, fate is not on his side and much of the ill-wind blowing Blanco’s way is karma with teeth. For a start one of his ex-employees (no longer family it seems) is protesting loudly about the injustice of his sacking, just outside the company gate. He’s on public land and can’t be shut down, much to Javier’s disgust. Meanwhile a colleague is in emotional free-fall and causing massive disruption to the company. On top of that, the seduction of an intern goes belly-up once Javier realises the young woman is well connected to his own family. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of a dead body.
THE GOOD BOSS has all the potential of an early Almodovar comedy - Manager On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown if you will. The narrative touch points are all there, the cast is uniformly tight with Bardem a solid, guiding force. He knows comedy (93’s GOLDEN BALLS for instance) and has the right touch of menace to be totally convincing as a smiling assassin.
Yet for all the positives, and there are plenty to be found in the clever script by writer/director Fernando León de Aranoa (ESCOBAR), as director he can’t seem to find the lightness required to let his story fly. There’s something too prosaic, too grounded about the way Blanco behaves and it’s a drag on pacing, on tempo, on emotional resonance. It’s not dull exactly - in fact you eagerly anticipate the gear changes and sudden shocks you know are coming - but when they do arrive, Aranoa pulls his punch.
From multiculturalism, narcism, feminism and the perils of autocracy, there’s a lot going on in THE GOOD BOSS. But in the end, the themes are spread too thin and the jokes are too broad for much of it to have the impact it deserves. In these politically charged times, we deserve to be hit harder.