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THE GOOD BOSS (2022) review

September 7, 2022


written by: Fernando León de Aranoa
produced by: Fernando León de Aranoa, Jaume Roures and Javier Méndez
directed by: Fernando León de Aranoa
rated: not rated
runtime: 120 min.
U.S. release date: August 26, 2022 (NY/LA) & September 2, 2022 (wide)


If you played a drinking game while watching “The Good Boss” and took a swig each time you hear the word “family”, you’d be quite buzzed by the end of the second half. The word is used so often in this corporate satire from co-writer/director Fernando León de Aranoa, one would think this is a spinoff of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. It appears so much that it loses its meaning, which is kind of the point. “The Good Boss” looks at one particular business owner, corporate culture in general (especially the industrial side), and the business buzzwords that are used ad nauseum to communicate to the various employees underneath management. It may not be a scathing satire, leaning more on humor than it does any noticeable bite and that’s not a bad thing.

Julian Blanco (Javier Bardem) sees himself as the father of Bascules Blanco and the employees who work at the Spanish factory that produces industrial scales as his children. It’s not just his perception, but also what he often communicates to his entire company as he stands above them on the factory platform or walks the factory floor. If they have a problem, he wants to hear it. If they are hurt, so does he. This all sounds good, but what has Blanco done to back any of that up?



Well, there is at least one example of how Blanco puts his words into action. As the film opens, we see an altercation that occurs amongst young men in a public park in which one specific individual is attacked and beaten by a group. This scene comes into play later on, when we learn that one of the alleged attackers turns out to be the son of the elderly Fortuna (Celso Bugallo) longstanding employee at the company. At the behest of Fortuna, Blanco winds up having a chat with the directionless young man and lands him a job working at the local boutique clothing shop run by his wife, Adela (Sonia Almarcha). While this is generous of Blanco, there is an indication that his involvement in the lives of his employees can sometimes cross the line into areas that are a bit too personal, like when we see an a company gathering acknowledging a handful of employees who are resigning and one young attractive female in particular seems noticeably more emotional when Blanco hands her a going away gift.

This particular week in which we’re introduced to Blanco and his company proves to be a crucial one for his own status in the industry as well as any future business potential. Bascules Blanco will be visited by a judging committee after becoming one of three companies in line to receive an award he deems “the Oscar of scales”. The award seems to be more important to his ego than anything and director de Aranoa and cinematographer Pau Esteve Birba emphasis this by gliding the camera along a wall in his living room wall at Blanco’s home that serves as a shrine which showcases all the awards Bascules Blanco has received over the years. There’s an empty spot on the wall waiting patiently for this “Oscar”, so clearly this is important to Blanco.



Since Blanco is anticipating the arrival of this committee, there’s a certain internal anxiety brewing within him and there are inevitable external elements bound to throw a wrench in the machinations of his dream. Just as we’re introduced to the factory floor of Bascules Blanco, we learn of the firing of Jose (Óscar de la Fuente), a longstanding employee who will go on to become a thorn in the side of Blanco by staging a protest in the empty lot across the street. Another longtime employee causing problems for Blanco is his childhood friend/production manager, Miralles (Manolo Solo), who is on a downward spiral due to outside marital problems, which causes more than one lapse in focus that causes costly mistakes. These mistakes are noticed by another manager, Khaled (Tarik Rmili), who takes some advantageous steps toward a lateral move. All of this is registering with Blanco as he sits looking out his office windows high above the ground floor, scanning for something, anything, to go right.

This is when Blanco notices his kryptonite walking the factory floor in a form a beautiful new intern, Lilliana (Almudena Amor), the daughter of close friends of he and his wife. She knows he notices her. He tries to be subtle with his interest in her, but how often do you see the owner of a company walk alongside two new interns as they get a tour of the factory? Not only does she notice this behavior, but many other employees do as well and they do so in a knowing way which indicates at least one of Blanco’s weakness is a well known unspoken thing.

One could assume “The Good Boss” is a workplace thriller the way it’s being described here, but de Aranoa (who has worked twice prior with Barden) has written and directed a comedy here. While there are definitely straight-up humorous moments and interactions and the score from Zeltia Montes is perhaps too on-the-nose with its light “this is a comedy” vibe, what stands out the most is the concerning behavior Blanco exhibits the more he unravels as things don’t play out exactly as he wanted as the inspection approaches. Much of the comedic notes rest on the shoulders of the security guard (Fernando Albizu) that Blanco interacts with, specifically how he handles (or mishandles) the protest that the aforementioned Jose displays. One would think that this would only add to the accumulating tension that Blanco feels, but instead de Aranoa prefers to keep it light and funny. So, “The Good Boss” may be a little uneven tonally, especially when acknowledging it’s potential, but it still does work as a comedy.



That being said, there is a fun and entertaining performance from Bardem here throughout the film. He plays a character who has to calibrate himself carefully depending on who he’s interacting with and it proves tricky (and fun to watch) when the different people crossover. For example, it’s very awkward albeit predictable that he winds up sleeping with Lilliana, but it’s very very awkward when his wife winds up inviting Lilliana and her parents over for dinner. That’s one way to lose your appetite. Bardem sweats it out convincingly during that dinner scene and it’s fun for viewers since at no point do we feel bad for the cad. He’s just as convincing as a supposed benevolent boss/father figure as he is a man grasping at his dwindling reputation, the later which winds up being dismantled due to his own horndog tendencies.

“The Good Boss” provides us with more evidence of Bardem’s versatility and an overall cast of intriguing characters in relatable situations. The comedy may overwhelm the underlying tension and anxiety at times, but it is nevertheless an entertaining look at the various players involved in making a successful business, often placing a human touch on those who would normally go unseen.






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