Javier Bardem, the Oscar-winning actor we all know and love, stars in The Good Boss as the somewhat evil Blanco, the owner of a scales company. The company, Blanco Scales, is up for a prestigious award in business excellence and the greedy Blanco is keen on winning it.
So, of course, his life and business slowly, but surely, starts to fall apart – thanks to various staff members and their personal problems. Whether it’s Miralles and his cheating wife, the new attractive intern or the unhappy ex-employee camped outside the factory, it seems Blanco just can’t catch a break.
Bardem is simply sublime as Blanco. At Bardem’s hands, he’s certainly a villain, but never a caricature of one. His motives are simple and understandable; he’s ruthless, greedy but very good at pretending to care about people. This is Bardem’s most fun role to date, a real chance for the actor to put in some great, detailed character work. A special mention must be made of his use of subtle, but powerful (and funny!) facial expressions.
The supporting cast are also exemplary. Óscar de la Fuente steals the show as Jose, a former employee with a grudge against Blanco and Manolo Solo is hilarious as Blanco’s Head of Production who suspects his wife is cheating on him.
The biggest and most obvious flaw in writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa’s film is that, although Blanco is a great character to observe, it’s hard to be on his side. It leads to a lack of engagement; and with that, rather than actively follow the story, we’re only passively following because Blanco conducts his business so glaringly wrong.
Yes, the delicious unravelling of the plot, and Blanco’s hopes and dreams, is fun to watch, but León de Aranoa never takes the overall themes any further. It’s all very simple; capitalism is bad and bad people profit from it. You keep hoping that the script, which is otherwise very witty, somehow transcends this, but it never does, leaving The Good Boss to be a tad disappointing.
The treatment of race is also slightly questionable. Not necessarily so much in terms of actual representation, but the fact it’s only mentioned three times and none of those times amount to anything meaningful at all. The Good Boss is much better when it focuses on the evils committed by Blanco and lets Bardem react to all the increasingly absurd plot developments León de Aranoa throws his way.
There is also a painfully relatable element to The Good Boss. Anyone who has been in a supervising role knows you end up always getting involved in the employees’ personal lives and any potential drama. Bardem’s nuanced and consistently fascinating portrayal of a man who only seeks to further himself, but must feign interest in his employees is as brutal as it is entertaining.
The Good Boss unfortunately never becomes more than the sum of its parts, but it is a wildly entertaining film. No wonder it bagged a record-breaking 20 nominations at the Goya Awards. This is definitely a crowd-pleaser and all the better when watched with an audience.