The Good Boss

The Good Boss ★★★★

In some ways, work is the most important social structure of our time. This idea seems like the thematic core of El buen patrón, the titular good boss of which is to his employees a friend, a doctor, a judge, a lover, and most importantly, a father, all at once. Like a chameleon, he transforms, playing whichever role suits him in any particular relationship. It should not surprise that all he gives can be taken away as easily; after all, the act only serves the bottom line, represented in the film by an award the company is about to receive.

True to the inconclusive title (good in what sense?), there's something seriously uncanny about Blanco. Bardem is fantastic and nicely ambiguous in the lead role, portraying with ease a person who can go from a warm smile to annoyance to back again in seconds – or, perhaps, a person for whom there is really no difference, a person for whom both are a performance.

The comedy is understated, but there are some subtle bits that really work for me. I loved it when Blanco first met Miralles at an expensive restaurant and then his wife at a cheap burger place. Even if a little too long and suffering from a constant editing problem with how the chapters end very suddenly, the film is a pretty nice watch; the complex network of intersecting subplots formed by Blanco's relationships to his different employees provides a satisfying plot structure.

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