In the latest film from Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa, Javier Bardem is the boss. That is, in León de Aranoa’s “The Good Boss,” Bardem takes on the role of Blanco, the owner of a manufacturing plant who prides himself on keeping balance in his business by treating all of his employees as family.
However, the benevolent leader suddenly finds these intensely personal relationships begin to backfire when a desire to win a coveted business prize as the ultimate “good boss” takes precedence over protecting his employees. The topic is particularly relevant to Hollywood insiders as the industry examines the abuse of power that brought down the likes of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“Well, no, he’s not necessarily a good boss,” Bardem said with a laugh during a conversation with León de Aranoa and ‘s Steve Pond. “But that’s what the people in the factory, the people around him, and most especially the audience have to believe — that he’s kind of a man with great intentions. But then something goes wrong.”
While several problematic relationships develop in the course of the movie, Blanco’s most challenging one is with a fired employee who sets up camp with his children on public land across from the factory gates just as competition judges are on their way to inspect the business. The ex-employee’s intention is to create an embarrassing scene and demand that Blanco give him back his job.
Although their stories are different, Bardem compared his character to Weinstein when it comes to realizing the backlash from the abuse of power.
“It’s a very wide, complex character to play, but it gives you room to go to different places in one single scene,” Bardem said. “He’s so warm and so smart and attractive — No, I don’t mean physically, I mean… he looks very much in control of what he does and what he says. He’s fun. He’s close. And then you realize you have given him the room, the floor, for that person to jump on you and take everything out of you.
“And that’s what happened with Harvey Weinstein and many others,” Bardem continued. “So yes, it’s also kind of a tale about that kind of profile.”
Director León de Aranoa said he chose the workplace as the arena to explore the issue of power because “I think that the biggest part of our lives takes place in the workplace. Sometimes we spend more time with the people we work with than our family.”
He added that he wanted to explore the dynamic that arises when hierarchical power comes into play. “(When) we have some power over somebody else, maybe we are not using it because we feel it’s not ethical,” León de Aranoa mused. “But what if you really need (something)…and you have that power? So this is why I felt it’s interesting to have this reflection on how this abuse works, and how the power works on the workplace.”
“The Good Boss” reunites Bardem and León de Aranoa for the first time since the director’s 2002 film “Mondays in the Sun.” In that film, Bardem’s character, Santa, is one among six men without jobs in the Spanish port city of Vigo. Both the filmmaker and the actor described Bardem’s role as Blanco as the opposite pole when it comes to the workplace power dynamic.
“I think we both are very proud of that film so many years ago,” León de Aranoa said. He called “Mondays in the Sun” a sort of rehearsal for “The Good Boss.” “We make the decision of trying to show the different point of view, so it’s playing the owner of a factory,” the director said. “Now, he’s the boss.”