“Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton’s old saw begins, and living a life of any length in this world should be enough to convince you he’s right. However, the way stories tend to approach these people is to clearly make them the bad guys. And the tricky part is that just about every villain in the world tends to think of themselves as heroes.
Honk for Jesus. Save your soul. and The good boss both take a satirical approach to characters manipulating power structures – in one case religion, in the other capitalism – in order to get what they want. The extent to which they respectively succeed has a lot to do with their effectiveness in conveying characters who remain convinced that their harmful actions are justified by the extent to which their power could allow them to do good to others.
Writer/director Adamma Ebo, developing her 2019 short film, begins in the wake of a scandal that has rocked an Atlanta-area Baptist mega-church. Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown) has been accused of sexual impropriety, but he and his wife Trinitie (Regina Hall) hope to rebuild their ministry as the cases settle, aiming to reopen their church on Easter Sunday, while a rival church builds its own members nearby.
Ebo introduces a false documentary structure, as Lee-Curtis enlists a filmmaker for a self-aggrandizing attempt to chronicle his own second coming. It’s a solid idea, but Ebo doesn’t stick to conceit, sometimes showcasing scenes that are clearly part of the documentary footage and at other times sneaking a peek at scenes that clearly wouldn’t. could not be captured by the film crew.
The decision proves frustrating, both because the documentary scenes are generally much stronger, and because this fluctuation has a negative effect on the characterization of Trinitia, who comes across as Honk for Jesus’s de facto protagonist. Hall’s performance is at its best when Trinitie clearly tries to put on the brave face of a devoted wife for public consumption, despite the humiliations of Lee-Curtis’ downfall; allowing a peek behind the scenes undermines the moment when that mask finally falls in front of the documentary cameras. And while Ebo wants to sympathize with the women Christian churches tell to stay with the men who harm them, she fails to explore just how much Lee-Curtis actually believes her own denials of wrongdoing — and stacks the bridge with an anti-gay sermon that clearly only exists to point out his hypocrisy.
THE GOOD BOSS
Available September 2 in theaters
There’s a sneakier, slicker vibe to Fernando León de Aranoa The good boss, located in a Spanish company that manufactures scales. Second-generation owner Julio Blanco (Javier Bardem) has his eye on a regional government award, but the timing of that award’s judging coincides with plenty of upheaval: a longtime employee (Manolo Solo) makes some crucial mistakes while that her marriage is falling apart; a fired employee (Óscar de la Fuente) demonstrating publicly outside the factory gates; and the consequences of Blanco’s propensity to have fun with young interns.
de Aranoa’s storyline takes great advantage of the growing threats to Blanco’s carefully constructed world and introduces some hilarious concepts. it’s a brilliant touch that the front door guard who constantly stares at the signs of protesting ex-employees begins to criticize them for their lack of catchy rhyme. Even as the situation threatens to descend into sheer farce – especially as Blanco’s latest case goes particularly wrong –The good boss sticks to the notion of Blanco as someone who sincerely believes he doesn’t deserve all of this, despite making all of his decisions based on filling a spot on his already-filled trophy wall.
Bardem’s performance really nails that dynamic, capturing one of those rich dudes who spouts platitudes about his business being “family” when it’s practical, and feeds on stories pulled from my own boots though. he inherited his business. There’s a clever level on which de Aranoa makes his third act a nod to the “score settling” montages of The Godfather movies, drawing attention to both Blanco’s relative inaptitude for revenge and the The Godfatherthematic link with win-at-all-costs capitalism. Of course, it’s a bit heavy when Blanco uses a literal ball to balance a broken scale outside the factory gates. But The good boss finally recognizes that those in power always know how to tip things in their favor, even convincing themselves – and the world – that they’re not playing a stacked game. C.W.