Javier Bardem plays the part of his life in El Buen Patrón. The actor, who we know from Todos lo Saben, Skyfall, Biutiful and Jamón Jamón, shows that he and his wife Penélope Cruz rightly belong to the top of Spanish film. The editors of the glossy Spain magazine ESPANJE! was at the premiere and wrote this review.
Julio Blanco, the charismatic owner of a family business that produces scales in a Spanish provincial town, is expecting the imminent visit of a committee that will present a regional award for business excellence. Everything must be in perfect order for the visit. However, everything seems to be conspiring against him. Counterclockwise, Blanco tries to solve the problems of his employees, who tumble over each other as in a classic farce. Javier Bardem plays a masterly role as an über-Spanish manufacturer who thinks he can take care of his employees like a father, but in the end is only out for self-interest.
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Captivating every second
Although the script of the film by director Fernando León de Aranoa is made up of clichés, the film remains fascinating to watch every second because of Bardem’s acting. He plays the almost sixties Blanco with full conviction and pleasure. Iconic is the scene in front of the mirror where he literally tries to wash all the shit off his hands. The final scene with the Galician actor Celso Bugallo, with whom Bardem has played together since 2004’s Mar Adentro, is also unforgettable. In the facial expressions everything we’ve just seen is condensed, that hypocritical ambivalence, with that half smile, that abrasive gesture, the traditional division of roles between people who have power and money and people who work hard for meager wages. Grandiose!
Bugallo, Fortuna in the film, is the prototype of the ever-submissive factory worker who will do anything for his boss. During the week he works long days in the noisy factory hall, on Sundays he comes to his house to repair the swimming pool and Blanco even asks him to hang a frame on the wall. On the other hand, he can always count on his boss. Like the time his son was arrested for violence against immigrants. But even then it turns out that Blanco is only out for self-interest with fatal consequences.
Everything goes wrong
The film opens with a group of young immigrants chatting quietly in a park. That peace is brutally disturbed when they are attacked by a group of Spanish boys. This scene seems to be separate from the rest, in which Bardem is almost continuously in the picture, but will ultimately determine the course of the story. In the next scene, scale manufacturer Julio Blanco (Javier Bardem) addresses his employees to announce that the company is one of the last three candidates to receive the award for business excellence. He constantly emphasizes that they are one big family and that he looks forward to the arrival of the inspectors with confidence.
Soon things go wrong. The fired employee José (Óscar de la Fuente), comes with his young children to the company to protest against his dismissal. When Blanco ignores him, he positions himself with a car, table lamp, coffee maker and all other scarce possessions on a vacant lot in front of the factory gates to get his revenge with banners and a megaphone. At the same time, Miralles (Manolo Solo), Blanco’s foreman, whose father also worked in the factory, makes serious mistakes because he is afraid that his wife is cheating. Then a new batch of trainees arrive at the factory. Blanco catches his eye on tall, slender Liliana (Almudena Amor), who offers him a lift to the apartment he rents for his interns. He experiences an exciting evening with her, but then the next day she turns out to be the daughter of good friends who are coming for dinner that evening.
All balance is lost
Blanco (a curious surname chosen for a man full of shadows, but irony rules the film) tries to solve all problems. He preaches of the importance of control, balance and justice in life and the values his father engraved in big red letters at the entrance of the warehouse: effort, poise and loyalty. But every time he sees the scales at the entrance of the factory, he finds that all balance has been lost. Blanco has inherited a traditional business and doesn’t quite understand that times are changing. The arrival of workers with roots in North Africa makes him question the idea that workers are like their children. And the role of young women has also changed. They successfully strive for the best positions as is the case with Liliana.
Masterful mimicry and diction Bardem
Despite Javier Bardem’s ubiquity, the actors and actresses surrounding him also survive. Besides Bugallo, the young actress Almudena Amor in particular catches the eye. Although it is a comedy with a light tone, Fernando León de Aranoa tackles many current social themes with his film: racism, sexual harassment in the workplace, senseless violence, prostitution and underpayment. Without Javier Bardem, El Buen Patrón, which won six Goyas, would be a mediocre film. But Bardem’s acting makes this a must-see movie. Only his hair has been dyed to give him the look of an older man. Furthermore, Bardem does it with an excellent and funny diction, with small chatter and unexpected stops in his sentences, accompanied by small gestures and grimaces. Masterful!
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