Fernando Leon de Aranoa represented very well that necessary urban counterpoint to Spanish cinema locked in Civil War Manichaeisms, made by wealthy filmmakers and a progressivism that needed to go out and breathe the atmosphere of the cane and sandwich bar, with most of the victims of the neoliberalism that was already pouncing in the 90s. With ‘El buen patron’, which opens on October 15, the filmmaker takes up that acid humor to present ideas, but this time looking from the other side.
If with ‘Barrio’ (1998) he made a conjunctural amalgamation of the social situation on the outskirts of large cities, with ‘Los Mondays in the Sun’ (2002) he reached the exquisite point of his discursive cinema, a black comedy full of the recession that comes out of the bottom and from the bottom. A somewhat visionary film of what was to come with the economic crisis of 2008 that had as protagonist a Javier Bardem leaving his image as a thug to start an acting career full of successes.
Comedies for an endemic crisis
It is curious that this deep recession infected the workforce so much that despite an acceptable stability it has resulted in a chronic and intergenerational precariousness that has transformed the professional fabric of countries like Spain, irrigating the middle class to mask a deeper difference between employers. and that group of fifty-year-old cicadas who spent Mondays in the neighborhood bar, trying to make sense of a life dedicated to entrepreneurs who now no longer had them.
That is why 2021 was an ideal time to retake its corrosive look at an economic model that has not changed anything, for which has changed the point of view telling us the perspective of the entrepreneur, and it could not be any other than Javier Bardem who stepped into Blanco’s skin, a charismatic owner of an industrial scale factory in a Spanish provincial city, somehow closing the cycle started with ‘Mondays in the sun’, which here you have a counterpart in a fired employee who decides to picket.
However, the tone of ‘The good boss’ is more grotesque and fun, the humor is not impregnated with gall and adjusts to Blanco’s adventures while waiting for the imminent visit of a commission that will decide to obtain a local award for Excellence Business Thus León de Aranoa accommodates himself in a look of a classic comedy, almost like a neighborhood cinema, with the look of Azcona present and with some moments of entanglement that seem to correspond to a lighter film.
A Bardem by Goya
But his ideological background is there, knowing himself to be an accomplice of second-generation crisis spectators who will catch the messages to the attitude of the bourgeoisie in the face of certain problems. A) Yes, the best moments of the film fall on the interpretation of a Bardem that palpitates the character’s cynicism and manages to create a folksy man who is capable of twisting the reality of everyone around to achieve his goals, manipulating in such a way that it seems that all his decisions are Solomonic.
Aranoa knows how to reel very well many classics of business life, labor conflicts and personal that are interspersed with a fine line of absurd theater that we deal with on a day-to-day basis to be able to carry out power relations with diplomacy and the fact that the hierarchy leaves only one above. Thus, dynamite unbreakable friendships, or relativizes insurmountable enmities for the benefit of a company, with the concept of prostituted justice, connecting the leit motif of the film with the eloquent image of a scale that, no matter how hard the owner tries, he is never able to calibrate.
‘The good boss’ plays with the idea of balance and puts it in the mouth of its protagonist, the greatest symbol that this balance is impossible, to create a constant game of situations that are breaking that longing that is built in the head of the entrepreneur, but never ends in reality, in such a way that, on the way to the Commission, everything seems to be getting out of place in one place or another. Even the final shot plays on this idea that your perfectionism will never be able to achieve a perfect straight line.
The balance rotates between humor and ideology
As is to be expected, Aranoa tries to talk about many things, and while the almost surreal comedy that Blanco’s odyssey generates is reminiscent of even the best moments of ‘Familia’, some subplots are somewhat forced to touch some stale clichés of scholarship holders and sex with young women that are from another era, or worse, from another type of Spanish cinema, with moments in which the director seems to roll Almudena Amor with one hand, a character who seems to have been written by Santiago Segura.
In those moments of drawing the relationships between the personnel of the company ‘The good boss’ does not manage to resemble the knowledge of the power dynamics that ‘Crimen Ferpecto’ drew and sometimes it is much more shocking when it tries to relate it to immigration, a subject that It tries to include it in some way and ends up with a prologue more connected with the cosmogony of the left-wing newspaper than with the main theme of the film, which suffers from this effect of ideological accumulation, especially when his drawing of the woman who tries to enter the labor market is rather Pérez Reverte.
Altogether ‘The Good Patron’ is a good acid comedy that intelligently qualifies labor relations and the engine that moves behind them, perhaps overcoming tragedy with morality in its final stretch but it is a welcome return to the form of the director of the theatrical ‘Loving Pablo’. Perhaps betting on her for the Oscars means relying too much on the ability to capture certain subtleties of local humor abroad, especially in the jokes more directed at his more forgiving parish.