Review: Javier Bardem elevates a smug look at office life in ‘The Good Boss’

Javier Bardem points at a picture of several scales in an office in "The Good Boss."
Javier Bardem in “The Good Boss.”
(Cohen Media Group)

There are worse ways to spend two hours than watching Javier Bardem navigate inter-office politics and personal relationships in his Spanish-language social satire “The Good Boss.”

And yet despite the film’s impressive haul at Spain’s Goya Awards (taking prizes for best film, director and actor) and submission for the most recent international feature Oscar race (it was selected over Pedro Almodovar’s superior “Parallel Mothers,” which earned Bardem’s wife, Penélope Cruz, a lead actress nomination), the movie’s strengths pretty much begin and end with its star.

Bardem appears to be having a grand time as the founder and head of a successful company that makes industrial scales, a unique realm for cinematic drama to unfold even if writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa (“Mondays in the Sun”) only mines it for obvious metaphors.


The problems Julio Blanco (Bardem) faces over the course of one very eventful week are largely personal — a close colleague’s crumbling marriage, a trusted associate’s son’s legal trouble, public protests from a recently fired worker. It’s all seemingly a sign of how his personnel becomes an extended family, whether he likes it or not.

But with a company motto “hard work, balance, loyalty” hammered home early and often, it’s no real surprise that Julio spends the rest of the movie demonstrating very little balance, loyalty or productive hard work. Yes, it’s called “The Good Boss,” and yes this boss isn’t such a “good” man.

A manipulative patriarch at home and the office, Blanco’s true obsession is with winning his latest in a series of awards for business excellence, no matter who gets in the way. Bardem’s mischievous turn anchors the slickly executed action, but little of substance lingers from the surface dip into corporate life.

'The Good Boss'

In Spanish with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; AMC Burbank 16