Javier Bardem becomes that boss
There are two truisms about comedy. First, that it’s much harder to deliver than the drama. Second, that he doesn’t travel well. This second rule certainly does not apply to dark spanish lovemaking The good bosswhich understandably owes much to the exuberant performance of Javier Bardem as Julio Blanco, the overbearing, gripping but oddly attractive owner of a venerable Spanish factory plagued by public relations and employment troubles.
That’s not all Bardem does, however. Wherever you live, you know exactly what’s going on here. We all understand what it means to be exploited, abused or sidelined at work. It is an international phenomenon. Even in translation, the title grimaces with irony; you know immediately that the right boss is going to be anything but.
The good boss is written and directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, whose excellent drama about unemployed shipyard workers, Mondays in the sun, won the Golden Shell in San Sebastián in 2002. Bardem also starred in this film – he and Leon de Aranoa are close friends – as the natural leader of these laid-off workers. Nineteen years later, they are back in San Sebastian with a bookend, but one that reflects changed times.
“Both stories deal with professional life,” said Leon de Aranoa Hollywood journalist in an interview at the festival. “The first was unemployment; The good boss works as a sinister counter-plan, showing what work can be like. But the difference of The good boss, alongside a sense of humor, is that workers do not share a sense of class identity. They do not have the strength of a collective fight.
The big joke The good boss, played out in an escalation of comedic scene after another, is that the slightly ridiculous Julio Blanco – Bardem is not only old, but wears a terrible wig – truly believes in himself as the company’s paterfamilias. He inherited the company from his father, manufacturer of industrial scales. He also inherited some of the workers; his childhood friend Miralles, son of his father’s manager, is now manager in turn. When Miralles starts making mistakes because his marriage is imploding, Blanco takes it upon himself to visit his wife and try to bully her into coming home.
“I wanted to tell a story about how personal relationships interact with the professional and where the boundary is not very clear,” says Leon de Aranoa. “How our work defines us and goes overboard in our personal lives.” But it also gives us an object lesson in raw capitalism. Miralles’ wife refuses to comply with the wishes of the boss. Miralles, faithful offside for 50 years, is therefore sacked. Accomplished job.
Using humour, says Leon de Aranoa, was a way to discuss “not only the dynamics of the relationship between the boss and his workers, but also their relationship with each other”. Another fired worker is camped outside the factory gates with banners and a megaphone, berating the customer and using the decorative scales on the factory gate as a pot of fortune; Blanco will have to call for favors to put this situation away. As he raises his glass during Friday night drinks for the next set of entrenchments, he smiles at each victim with avuncular indulgence. “Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for the good of the family,” he observes. The fired workers smile pleasantly. They also bought into his myth.
The first adage about comedy — that it’s harder than drama — still holds true, Bardem says firmly. “All the actors say that – and they’re right. Making people laugh is harder than making them cry. And the drama unites us all. The things that make sense or hurt us are mostly the same for everyone. The humor, on the other hand, is much more offbeat. And while there are comedians who can make anything funny, he doesn’t consider himself a comedian. Fortunately, he says, the comedy was in the script. “You need a good situation, a good line – and in this movie, I got a lot of that.”