What makes a ‘good boss’?
Having inherited a factory that produces industrial scales from his father, Blanco (Javier Bardem) believes himself to be a man of respect. Married without children of their own, Blanco tells his staff that they are his family and he wants to care for them as though they were blood. In fact, as a result of his workplace environment, Blanco is up for a local Business Excellence award. With the judges expected at any time, he works hard to keep his company running without error. Nevertheless, lives are messy and flaws begin to appear that threaten his victory.
With scathing satire, The Good Boss is an entertaining piece about the scales of justice within the workplace. Featuring some surprising twists and turns, the film may be billed as a comedy but it has a seriousness that never keeps it grounded. Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, Boss is an examination of the necessity of a changing landscape in a culture dominated by toxic masculinity. Anchored by a solid performance by Bardem, the film disseminates male dominance in the workplace with humour yet rarely pulls its punches. As the boss himself, Bardem uses his charm to create a sympathetic figure who seems to love his staff yet loves himself more. When the opportunity for a pending award is on the table, he speaks for unity and care for one another yet, in his private life, he demonstrates a selfishness with which taints his work.
Telling the story of the staff of an industrial scale factory, this is very much a film about the balance of justice. Although Blanco is a man with charm who seems to be loved by his employees, he rules his company with a strong fist. He preaches family yet also suggests that, sometimes, a firm hand is required. As such, he demands perfection and equality amongst his team and wants them to stabilize their personal life and professional life. (In this way, the name ‘Blanco’ takes on a deeper meaning as he wants his company to be without blemish.)
However, as cracks begin to appear in the system, that balance appears to be disrupted. A disgruntled former employee begins to protest his dismissal. His right-hand man is struggling to hold his family together. And an attractive new intern has caught Blanco’s eye. However, these sorts of distractions leave a perceived smudge on his otherwise perfect record and he decides to intervene.
He is a man of power and he is willing to wield it whenever and wherever is necessary.
What’s more, Blanco is also a man who fails to see his own failings. To him, maintaining the status quo is the most important detail. However, while he believes that ‘everyone makes mistakes’, he is unable to take responsibility for his own actions and refuses to change within himself. (For instance, before he pursues his new intern, we understand that he has clearly been in a relationship with another former employee.) In this way, the image of power becomes as important as the power itself.
As such, Good Boss provides a healthy social commentary which recognizes the importance of our changing landscapes in the deeper realizations that must take place. This is not a film about vengeance but rather the truth that the world has changed and those in power must change along with it. Blanco may be likeable yet his arrogance and perceived grip on power have created at toxic work environment… even if he thinks it to be one of order.
Because, in this world, toxicity begins to fester when one fails to believe it exists.
The Good Boss is available in theatres on Friday, August 26th, 2022.