Justitia may be blind, but the state of her sense of smell is unknown. The proud entrepreneur, who has made his striving for inner and outer balance his business model (he has a long family tradition of producing industrial scales), immediately notices that the sample specimen at the factory entrance is not in balance.
However, he only realizes that the reason for the imbalance is literally deeply human in origin when he is already pressing 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 aren’t 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 gesture of capitalist provincial princes. A big honorable family. The fact that the type of “Buen Patrón”, the original title of Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s laconic comedy, has certain phenotypical similarities with the behavior of a mafia godfather is already inherent in Bardem’s pompous game.
Julio’s week starts promisingly. His medium-sized company has once again been nominated for an excellence award. He has already cleared the space for the award on the trophy wall in the living room, the visit from the district government’s prize committee is actually a mere formality. “Only the Oscar is missing,” remarks a visitor to the opulent Blanco estate ironically as he stands in front of the wall with the awards. The patron actually deserved the acting award. His motivational speeches in front of the workforce exude charisma, his children show him respect (the male employees) or a slightly heated admiration (the female employees).
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 Spanish audiences. 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 2017 drug lord Pablo Escobar. In fact, last year he won the Best Actor Award at the Goyas, the “Spanish Oscars”. One of a total of seven awards for “The Perfect Chef”, the German title of which lacks the biting ambiguity of the original.
Director de Aranoa initially gives his social satire a dry undertone. But one already suspects that the jovial self-image of the patriarch 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 sacking. Then the ongoing marital crisis of longtime production manager Miralles (Manolo Solo) causes delays in production.
His increasing mistakes cost the understanding boss not only a lot of money, but also the last nerve. The chief logistician Khaled (Tarik Rmili) already senses his chance for a promotion. But the harmonious corporate culture quickly turns out to be a mere illusion of social progress. “Look at the color of my skin,” Khaled once told Julio. “I’m not your son.”
However, Julio’s biggest problem 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 a capitalism-critical workplace comedy and more the dismantling of a privileged world view. De Aranoa shakes it subcutaneously with small tremors. It’s also very nice how cameraman Pau Esteve Birba lets the gray mottled best ager Bardem just stand there in the picture in some scenes.
The fact that the “Buen Patrón” is actually just a relic of the past, whose patriarchal mafia methods of one-hand-washes-the-other are completely outdated even in the provinces, is of course not groundbreaking knowledge. It’s been a long time since anyone believed capitalism with a human face. But Bardem’s subtle stoicism makes up for some of the satirical truisms that are sometimes reminiscent of the shirt-sleeved morality of political cabaret.
That Julio in his misguided communitarianism – just another form of encroachment – if necessary, over dead bodies, director de Aranoa probably wants to sell the audience as black humor. The real point of “The Perfect Chef” is how the external constraints, in which the Patron becomes more and more entangled, ultimately leave him no choice but to enter the 21st century as an entrepreneur.