There are worse ways to spend two hours than watching Javier Bardem navigate cross-office politics and personal relationships in his Spanish-language social satire, The Good Boss.
And yet, despite the film’s impressive haul at Spain’s Goya Awards (with awards for best film, director and best actor) and entry into the recent international feature film Oscar race (it was selected over Pedro Almodovar’s superior Parallel Mothers , which earned Bardem’s wife, Penélope Cruz, a Leading Actress nomination), the film’s strengths pretty much begin and end with its star.
Bardem seems to be having a great time as the founder and director of a successful company that manufactures industrial scales, a unique realm for cinematic drama to unfold even as writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa (“Mondays in the Sun”) is there only mines for obvious metaphors.
The issues Julio Blanco (Bardem) faces over the course of a very eventful week are mostly personal – a close colleague’s broken marriage, the legal troubles of a trusted employee’s son, public protests from a recently laid-off worker. It all seems a sign of how his staff is becoming one extended family, whether he likes it or not.
But with a company motto of “hard work, balance, loyalty” hammered home early and often, it’s no real surprise that Julio spends the rest of the film demonstrating very little balance, loyalty, or productive hard work. Yes, it’s called “The Good Boss,” and yes, this boss isn’t such a “good” man.
A manipulative patriarch at home and in the office, Blanco’s true obsession is winning his latest in a series of business excellence awards no matter who gets in his way. Bardem’s mischievous turn anchors the deftly executed action, but little substance remains of the surface of corporate life.
“The Good Boss”
In Spanish with English subtitles
Duration: 1 hour 59 minutes
To play: Lammle Royal, West Los Angeles; AMC Burbank 16
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-08-27/good-boss-review-javier-bardem ‘The Good Boss’ review: Javier Bardem elevates office comedy