“The Good Boss” – Comedy and commentary on workplace dynamics
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
Spanish actor Javier Bardem plays Julio Blanco, owner of Blanco Scales, a factory where precision weighing instruments are made.
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“THE GOOD BOSS”
Blu-ray; 2021; Not Rated, but would definitely be R for nudity, sex, violence, profanity
Best extra: Zoom interview with Javier Bardem and Fernando León de Aranoa
THE WONDERFUL Spanish actor Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men,” “Skyfall”) collaborates with producer/writer/director Fernando León de Aranoa for the third time (“Mondays in the Sun,” “Loving Pablo”) with “The Good Boss,” a razor-sharp dark comedy about the travails of a factory owner.
Bardem plays Julio Blanco, the friendly, seemingly well-liked owner (thanks to an inheritance from his father) of Blanco Scales, a factory where precision weighing instruments are made. Blanco prides himself on the factory’s reputation for excellence and proudly displays its many awards on a wall in his palatial home. A new award is being given, for which Blanco Scales is a finalist, and the boss is dead set on winning it. But, before long, problems at the factory begin to pop up: A recently fired worker, José (Óscar de la Fuente), refuses to go quietly.
His protests begin by him bringing his two little children to the plant, and dramatically insisting they be told why their father is now on the verge of poverty. Next, José takes his complaints to the general public by setting up a makeshift camp across the road from the factory entrance. From there, he shouts through a megaphone and displays huge banners with his angry messages for passersby to see. This is not the look Blanco, whom we also see helping a couple of his employees and trying hard to be a good boss, needs to earn his award. What follows is a series of questionable and extremely unethical actions by Blanco, partly in his desperation to win that award, but also to satisfy his apparently constant lust for pretty, young interns in his factory (unbeknownst to his trusting wife).
(1&2) Julio Blanco gives several departing workers a special pen, including one for Victoria (Eva Rubio), and their relationship seemed to be more than boss and employee. (3&4) At Julio’s palatial home a spotlight highlights the wall for the next award. He and his wife Adela (Sonia Almarcha) enjoy Sunday morning with breakfast and reading.
A running (and humorously symbolic) gag involves a set of metal scales installed at the main entrance gate to the plant. Whenever Blanco looks at them, they’re just a bit unbalanced for a variety of increasingly funny reasons. Each time he tries to set them right, he fails. Some hilarious exchanges between Blanco and an enormous, clueless security guard occur because Blanco seems to blame him for both the uneven scale, and José’s escalating protest displays. Bardem is perfect as Blanco, if only because it’s almost impossible to dislike him, no matter how abominably he behaves. And it’s a delight to watch Bardem’s facial expressions change by millimeters as Blanco’s situation becomes more fraught. His comic timing is exquisite.
The Cohen Media Group Blu-ray transfer is excellent, sourced from digital cameras mastered in 2K (2.39:1 aspect ratio), with consistently fine detail and good contrast, natural skin tones, and balanced color, while a post-production film grain was added.
The DTS-HD audio is also just right, with effects realistic and the Spanish dialogue always clear. English subtitles are provided.
(1) A bird tips the scales at the main entrance gate of Blanco Scales. (2&3) Security guard Román (Fernando Albizu) and Julio notice recently fired employee José (Óscar de la Fuente), who has set up camp across the street from the plant’s front gate to protest his termination. (4&5) Julio confronts production supervisor Miralles (Manolo Solo) about recent production errors and delays.
Two separate interviews are available, but both leave a lot to be desired. They’re extremely abbreviated, at under 10 minutes apiece, and quite similar to each other.
One took place at a film festival in which Bardem was present with the host, with de Aranoa participating via satellite on a large screen. The other, and slightly better one, was done completely over Zoom – again with Bardem and de Aranoa, and hosted by Nancy Tartaglione, an online international entertainment journalist.
Bardem praises de Aranoa for “telling stories that matter.” The writer/director notes that he and Bardem made their first film together 20 years ago and, like the other two, “The Good Boss” deals with the workplace. Bardem discusses his character, who “really believes he’s a good boss – a savior who helps his employees with their families and to achieve their goals. “We know this kind of character,” Bardem explains, “Smart, powerful … but his workers are trapped, and at his mercy, so he can abuse them.” The story, Bardem adds, is very “socially conscious.”
De Aranoa clarifies, saying that Blanco is charismatic: “It’s hard to understand him,” but he’s in control – until things start “going out of his control.” Bardem laughs about some critics’ nickname for his hairstyle in the film: “Grey, tea cosy hair.” But he thinks the grey hair succeeds in giving him “an air of experience,” so that “people will rely on him more.”
“The Good Boss” is bound to be on a number of shortlists for a nomination for Best Foreign Language film for the upcoming 95th Academy of Awards on March 12, 2023.
— Peggy Earle
(1) Julio is struck by the new marketing intern Liliana (Almudena Amor). (2&3) José escalates the protest and gets the attention of the local newspaper. Julio tries to bribe José back to the plant. (4) The plot thickens when Liliana hooks up with Khaled (Tarik Rmili), the logistics supervisor. (5&6) Julio greets the awards committee. (7&8) Julio seems proud of winning the prestigious award as he and Fortuna (Celso Bugaallo) mount the plaque on his awards wall.