By: Amanda Guarragi
In The Good Boss, Básculas Blanco is a Spanish company producing industrial scales in a provincial Spanish town. The workers await the imminent visit from a committee which holds its fate in their hands as to whether they merit a local Business Excellence award: everything has to be perfect when the time comes. Working against the clock, the company’s proprietor, Blanco (Javier Bardem) pulls out all the stops to address and resolve issues with his employees, crossing every imaginable line in the process. We see that Blanco has a hand in everything in the town surrounding his company. As he tries to keep everything in line he is tested.
Many moving parts of this story deal with the hierarchy of power within the industrial system. We see different perspectives of workers in the chain of command and their struggles while working at the company. People who have been fired hold a personal vendetta and those in management positions get preferential treatment. Blanco makes promises and treats his workers equally with his words of encouragement and the family dynamic that he keeps within the company. He makes everyone feel important, so he’s loved by so many. Even those his actions don’t show it sometimes, he has his workers under his spell of kindness.
The film highlights his working relationships in the office and outside of it, blurring the lines because he wants everyone to be comfortable with him. Bardem’s performance is interesting to watch because there are layers to the “boss” persona that he has built. He hides a lot of what he thinks of the people and keeps a stone face most of the time. Even though he comes off as unemotional or uninterested in anything, it’s part of the game that he has to play. He does have compassion, but he also has his reservations when it comes to business decisions within the company. Three characters put him in situations and he has to use his business skillset to work through each one.
Javier Bardem gives a compelling performance because of the constant changes he goes through while holding everything together for the company. It’s also very entertaining because the placement of these characters pushes the narrative forward at the right time. The Good Boss has some strong moments for Bardem as Blanco tries his best to keep his composure. Naturally, everything comes to a head in the third act and the tension is high. The structure of this film also shows what happens within a day to Blanco, and is carried out into a week’s worth of issues. Adultery, grief, and depression are all present within the story with Blanco, and they explore that through different perspectives.