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SIFF 2022: The Good Boss

Directed by: Fernando León de Aranoa
Distributed by: Tripictures

Written by Taylor Baker

76/100

“Sometimes you have to trick the scale to get the exact weight.”

Julio Blanco’s Father

Javier Bardem stars as Julio Blanco the owner of Blanco Scales a family-run business that manufactures scales in Fernando León de Aranoa’s latest reteaming with Bardem who he’s collaborated with on two previous films, 2017’s “Loving Pablo” and 2002’s “Mondays in the Sun.” The film follows Julio over the course of a week as Blanco Scales is up for a prestigious community award of excellence. But problems arise, like one of his longest-tenured employees’ son getting arrested, a laid-off employee starting a protest across the street and a romantic entanglement with a young intern. As you might imagine there are plenty of metaphorical and philosophical angles to take in a film about a boss of scales, superficially just by the description you already have an oxymoron of imbalance to balance.

One of the primary strengths of “The Good Boss” is its ability to make those points impactfully and dance along quickly, instead of settling down allowing only one reading of its multiple threads. Aranoa who also wrote the film understands balance in storytelling and character giving Bardem’s Julio multiple facets that the character expresses but doesn’t feel beholden to. He has built his life around his wife as much as he has built it around his business, yet that devotion doesn’t keep him from straying in his marriage. Aranoa is more interested in what you can get away with and at whose expense without ever making that inextricably the narrative’s focus. Like Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix in “Hail, Caesar!” the fun part of watching “The Good Boss” is watching Javier’s Julio keep all the plates spinning. His trusted employee and friend Miralles slowly becomes a liability, as his wife begins an affair and he watches her phone on a GPS tracking device pirouetting around a room while Miralles is left wondering what she’s doing and who with.

By maintaining a distant goal that everything is working toward “The Good Boss” is able to delve deep into moments with its characters while maintaining momentum toward the inevitable visit by the committee who bestow the award. And during the film, we find out there’ve been many awards preceding this nomination. They aren’t kept at the business as one would assume with Javier’s grandiose “We are a family” speech instead they’re at his home on a dedicated wall. Pau Esteve Birba’s cinematography particularly in interiors creates a layer of spatial metaphor that adds subtlety to the film without overemphasizing itself, and relative newcomers Zeltia Montes as Composer and Vanessa Marimbert as Editor each craft their respective elements in service of the film’s cohesion rather than making a star or gimmick out of their respective disciplines. Fernando León de Aranoa’s “The Good Boss” pairs star power against workers rights, nepotism against sex, and desire against human rights, it’s undoubtedly the best satire I’ve seen this year and a great display of Spanish cinema.

“The Good Boss” Trailer

“The Good Boss” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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