By Maryam Tavatav (Critic)
Directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, "The Good Boss", as the representative of Spanish cinema at the 2021 Academy Awards, explores societies based on political-economic and capitalist systems and narrates becoming the number one in the workplace at any cost.
Blanco is the owner of a factory of industrial scales. This mere choice of scales connoting justice begins the chain of symbolism in this film. Throughout his speeches and interaction with others, Blanco manifests himself at the beginning of the story, as a compassionate, sympathetic boss who is willing to do anything for his factory workers. He keeps retelling this key phrase: "Every employee's problem is mine" and this is a fallacious statement that has been repeated over and over again throughout the organization's history causing all workers to believe in its legitimacy. However, another truth emerges as the film proceeds.
The film's main plot is based on this question: beyond this technicolor of slogans the capitalists chant in support of the workers, is their true face as sympathetic and benevolent as they look before the public and media? It remains to be seen to what extent these pretender capitalists adhere to moral statements when a tiny margin of their capital is jeopardized. This view does not contradict the concept of capital since the circulation of capital in society will certainly bring about economic prosperity that might be beneficial to the people. Meanwhile, the main point is how this benefit is to be distributed. Do people share in the benefits as much as they have contributed to the generation of wealth?
What elements must be in place in this cycle to achieve a higher level of assets? At this point, the main conflict is created; where various economic and political schools have made an attempt to come up with an answer. The script of a good boss also brings to light the extent of adherence to principles that are challenged in the face of a financial crisis and where the interest of employees comes into play. Simply put, when a problem occurs at the heart of the factory, despite Blanco's pretentious conduct favoring the workers, the manpower becomes the means to add just one more award to the wall of the owner's house at any cost. This comedic nature of the film, in a dark setting, mocks Blanco's superficial view of the fate of his workers. The film's final scene illustrates framed awards, with writings such as "Justice", here and there on the factory's walls, while its atmosphere is still filled with corruption and inequality.
The Good Boss can be introduced as the most allegoric and figurative film of the year considering its abundant use of meaningful symbols. The irony depicted in the film regarding the sense of justice and benevolence demonstrates that the director's preoccupation is way beyond a mere worker-employer incompatibility in the workplace. Behind Blanco's apparent good-naturedness in the guise of a spiritual father lives another human being: a man enjoying inheritance who is willing to do anything to preserve his capital so that he can add a framed award to those of others on the walls of his factory, lest a single penny be deducted from its capital; He somewhat represents a capitalist society that is willing to crush everything under the boots of power for the sake of achieving its material goals. Herein, the power relations are predefined and the authority is exclusively in the hands of a few and the others may enjoy a marginal benefit out of their vast fortune through deceitfulness. In fact, the concept of meritocracy and effort is the overlooked component of such thinking.
The element of surprise, which seems to be missing in almost all films these days, is well implemented in this film. The first impression that Blanco leaves on the audience is one sympathetic boss who follows the recent concepts in management science and perceives his workforce as the capital of his factory, while in the second half of the film, his true character is revealed once Blanco is put in a situation that his interests are at stake.
The brilliant performance of "Javier Bardem" in the leading role of this film must not be neglected. He shows such a dramatic personality change in his role that the viewer fully understands the nuances of his characteristics; his acting thoroughly serves the film's purposes and helps advance the narrative. The presence of influential supporting roles and sub-characters has also contributed to the completion of this puzzle and created an effective flow of transformation. The Good Boss possesses a professional cast of actors who have done well in their roles. The use of symbols and attention to detail have played a major role in expressing the main concept and theme of the film, especially when the seeds planted earlier are harvested and these symbols are used in the ending.
This film is a fine example of how deep political-economic concepts, whose presence is a grave concern in human life, can be sharply criticized with the correct and principled use of humor and comedy. Fierce criticism of political and economic structures does not necessarily require the production of serious films; rather one can voice the most serious criticisms by making a comedy film and force the viewer to contemplate.
"The Good Boss" takes place in and around the Blancos Básculas factory, where all things must be in balance at all times. After all, they manufacture scales of all shapes and sizes. There, the seemingly benevolent boss, Bardem's Blanco, is preparing his workforce for an upcoming inspection by a group visiting local businesses to select one for a prestigious prize. Tensions begin to mount, however, when recently fired employee Jose shows up with his two children and begins making demands for the reinstatement of his employment. When Blanco's management team refuses, the employee begins a one man crusade to discredit Blanco and prevent him from winning the much-coveted award.
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