Justitia may be blind, but the state of her sense of smell is unknown. The proud entrepreneur, who has made his pursuit of inner and outer balance his business model (he has a long family tradition of producing industrial scales), immediately notices that the sample at the factory entrance is out of balance.
However, he only realizes that the cause of the imbalance is literally deeply human when he already presses his fingers into the warm excrement that a disappointed employee has left in Justitia’s care, so to speak. Not only does Julio Blanco’s company stink to high heaven, the scales of justice are not perfectly calibrated either.
“Diligence, balance, loyalty” is the motto of Julio’s (Javier Bardem) traditional company, who sees his employees as his children in the same way as capitalist provincial princes. A large honorable family. That the “Buen Patrón” type, the original title of Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s laconic comedy, has certain phenotypic similarities to the demeanor of a mafia godfather is already inherent in Bardem’s pompous game.
Julio’s week is off to a promising start. His medium-sized business has once again been nominated for an outstanding award. He has already cleared the space for the prize on the trophy wall in the living room, the visit from the district government prize committee is actually a mere formality. “All that’s missing is the Oscar,” a visitor to the opulent Blanco estate remarks wryly as he stands in front of the wall of awards. The Protector actually deserved the acting award. His motivational speeches in front of the workforce exude charisma, his children show him respect (the male employees) or slightly heated admiration (the female employees).
From the unemployed to medium-sized entrepreneurs
The fact that Julio is played by the Spanish world star Javier Bardem is a domestic joke that should not have escaped the attention of the Spanish audience. Bardem slowly worked his way up the social ladder in the films of his compatriot de Aranoa: twenty years ago he played an unemployed man in “Mondays in the Sun”, most recently in the drug lord Pablo Escobar in 2017. In fact, last year he won the award for best actor leading role by Goyas, “the Spanish Oscar”. One of a total of seven awards for “The Perfect Chef”, whose German title lacks the biting ambiguity of the original.
Director de Aranoa initially gives his social satire a dry undertone. But one already suspects that the patriarch’s jovial self-image will soon be put to the test. It only takes a working week for the provincial farce to escalate. On Monday, a fired accountant camped with his son at the factory gate to protest his dismissal. Then the ongoing marital crisis of longtime production manager Miralles (Manolo Solo) causes production delays.
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His increasing mistakes cost the understanding boss not only a lot of money, but also the last nerve. Chief logistician Khaled (Tarik Rmili) already senses his chance for a promotion. But the harmonious corporate culture soon turns out to be just an illusion of social progress. “Look at the color of my skin,” Khaled once told Julio. “I am not your son.”
(In cinemas from Thursday)
Julio’s biggest problem, however, is the new marketing intern Liliana (Almudena Amor), who arouses desires in the boss. “My interns are like my daughters,” he explains to Liliana in the car. From this moment at the latest, it is clear that “The Perfect Boss” wants to be less of a workplace comedy critical of capitalism and more of a dismantling of a privileged worldview. De Aranoa shakes it subcutaneously with small tremors. It is also very nice how cameraman Pau Esteve Birba lets the grey-speckled best ager Bardem just stand there in the picture in some scenes.
That the “Buen Patrón” is actually just a relic of the past, whose patriarchal one-hand-washes-the-other mafia methods are completely obsolete even in the provinces, is of course not ground-breaking knowledge. It’s been a long time since anyone believed in capitalism with a human face. But Bardem’s subtle stoicism offsets some of the satirical truisms that sometimes resemble the shirt-sleeve morality of political cabaret.
That Julio in his misguided communitarianism – just another form of intervention – if necessary over dead bodies, director de Aranoa probably wants to sell the audience as dark humor. The real point of “The Perfect Chef” is how the external constraints in which the patron becomes increasingly entangled ultimately leave him with no choice but to enter the 21st century as an entrepreneur.