Here’s the thing about bad bosses: they rarely realize they are bad bosses. Even if they’re manipulative, inflexible, uncaring, incompetent, out of touch and generally terrible at virtually every facet of the position, they think they’re doing a fantastic job.
So it goes with Javier Bardem’s charming, hands-on, seemingly caring Blanco in writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa’s wickedly warped comedy/drama “The Good Boss.” As the CEO of Básculas Blanco, a family-owned Spanish company that manufactures industrial scales of all shapes and sizes (and let the metaphors about balance and justice begin), Blanco arrives for work every day with a smile and a good word for everyone.
Sporting a prime minister-worthy mane of silver hair, maintaining an air of warm calm, constantly telling his employees they’re “family,” Blanco prides himself on having first-name-basis relationships with everyone from the top managers to the men and women on the factory floor to the security guard at the front gate, and he revels in his patriarchal status — but as we learn over the course of one tumultuous week, Blanco is all about Blanco.
With a cheeky score by Zeltia Mones providing a counter-beat to the increasingly dark developments, “The Good Boss” has an early scene in which Blanco addresses the troops in his signature avuncular manner, toasting their hard work and encouraging them to take it up a notch, as the company is among three finalists for a coveted award Blanco calls “The Oscar of Scales.” Even then, though, we see the cracks in the façade, as a recently terminated employee named José (Óscar de la Fuente) has showed up on the premises with his two children and is raising a ruckus, and Blanco’s production manager and childhood longtime friend Miralles (Manolo Solo) is falling apart and making huge mistakes on the job because he’s convinced his wife is having an affair.
Blanco tries to handle these twin crises with the smooth authority of a powerful mob boss — but the more he gets involved, the worse things become. There’s also the matter of a new intern named Liliana (Almudena Amor), who instantly catches Blanco’s eye, and we get the impression this isn’t the first time Blanco has groomed young women under his employ. (The subplot with Liliana results in two major twists, one more plausible than the other.)
Whether he’s telling stories about himself at a dinner party at his home as his long-suffering wife Adela (Sonia Almarcha) rolls her eyes; taking an employee to dinner in the guise of caring friendship even as he’s making it clear this guy better get his s--- together, or masterminding a nasty plot to get that terminated employee to stop harassing him, Blanco firmly believes he’s in control, he knows what’s best and everything he does is in the interest of the company. Perhaps there are some moments in the dead of night when Blanco admits to himself that he’s the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing, but we doubt it.