Cine Las Americas 2022: EL BUEN PATRON (THE GOOD BOSS)

In Austin, Texas, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival finally returned, after taking a hiatus for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After cancelling all plans for a 2020 festival, the great people in charge programmed a virtual version in 2021. It was awesome to be back in person, and we, the attendees, enjoyed a great film on opening night.

From Spain, El Buen Patron tells the story of Julio Blanco (Javier Bardem), the seemingly charming and genial owner of Basculas Blanco, a company that manufactures industrial scales. Much like the products his business makes, Blanco prides himself as the perfect picture of balance, fairness, and order. However, the reality is that Julio is a conniving, manipulative and greedy man who is setting himself up for disaster. Though Julio is no stranger to marital infidelity, things get rather complicated and messy when he begins having another affair with new intern Liliana (Almudena Amor). However, that is not the messiest, most problematic part. Things get insanely awkward when he discovers that Liliana is the daughter of some old friends of his.

Written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, El Buen Patron is a sharply written and solidly directed corporate satire. The film features a mix of cringeworthy moments and behavior on the part of the Julio Blanco character. Despite his infectious charisma and commanding presence, both León de Aranoa and Bardem meticulously reveal how despicable a character he is. But, the film is not only shock and awe, the writer/director and his cast help lighten things up a little with skillfully written and performed humor. As nasty and vile as the film can get there are still plenty of laughs to be had as Julio Blanco tries to keep his life in order, despite the chaos is creating for himself.

Bardem delivers yet, another extraordinary performance as the titular Patron. The talented actor superbly expresses all of the appropriate emotions naturally and impactfully, given the nature of drama/ridiculousness, for which the character is responsible. As Julio’s new intern/mistress Lilliana, Almudena Amor is absolutely wonderful. She not only beautifully portrays a lusty seductress who has her eyes on the boss, she exudes both strength and vulnerability, when things start to go sour in their relationship. Other standout performances include Manolo Solo as Miralles, Julio’s longtime friend and employee, whose marriage is going through a rough patch, and Óscar de la Fuente, who portrays Jose, a recently laid off employee who protests outside of the factory’s property.

So, not only was it great to back, in person, at Cine Las Americas, it was wonderful that they began the festival with such a great film. Though the movie has already been released in Spain, it has yet to reach the U.S. in any capacity, besides the festival circuit. I do sincerely hope it gets some form of release here, as I believe it will find plenty of fans who enjoy a good razor-sharp satire.

The Good Boss (El Buen Patron) opens in Austin on September 2, at the Violet Crown Cinema and the Regal Arbor.

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