Nov 4, 2018
Welcome back to another week of reviews. By now, many of you have heard the news that we’ve ended our agreement with Society Bytes Radio for the One Movie Punch Weekly Digest. Don’t worry, the show isn’t disappearing, but will be reformatted and relaunched as a weekly podcast. If you have any ideas about what that should look like, I’d love to hear it. You can reach out to me at onemoviepunch.com and over social media.
We’re also breaking format slightly again this week, as we keep reviewing and posting Netflix Original films. And it’s going to be a busy week, with a new Orson Welles film and a documentary about its making, and the start of... *sigh*... the holiday movies. All that, and more this week on One Movie Punch.
Today’s movie is “Jefe” (2018), the Netflix Original Spanish and Portuguese comedy directed by Sergio Barrejón, and written for the screen by Natxo López and Marta Piedade. The film follows César (Luis Callejo), a CEO of a major company who seemingly has it all... until he doesn’t. Now he has six days to save his company, and the rest of his life, with the surprising help of a night shift cleaning lady named Ariana (Juana Acosta).
I’m still not quite sure how I feel about today’s movie. “Jefe” is one of those films where the protagonist is intentionally unlikeable. I mean, we’re talking a privileged and entitled piece of shit CEO, who is routinely sexist, racist, and homophobic, and has a mean drinking and cocaine problem. And we’re going to see him have his world crumble around him, which would be funny if what is happening to him wasn’t happening to so many others right now in society. We have this guilty pleasure, thematically speaking, of seeing the powerful fall and the upper class lowered, but it also feels a bit like self-hate, because that means we know, or at least believe, that what most of us have is not just lesser, but somehow a punishment. By rooting for his downfall, I’m ridiculing my own condition, and that makes me uneasy.
“Jefe”, much like yesterday’s episode, “Dovlatov” (Episode #307), is a six-day journey through the life of César. It’s the last comparison I would make between the two films, though. César struggles during the day to save his company, while spending his evenings recklessly pursuing a cleaning woman, and rarely leaving the office. Luis Callejo gives a great performance of an unlikeable character, comedically expressive as César’s life deteriorates. It’s clear even as the film approaches its climax, and the mystery behind who bankrupted the company is revealed, that we’re not going to get a redemption story, but merely an invitation to one. It’s funny, and when you accept the shallowness of the story and the themes, you can get a great deal of entertainment out of the film.
But honestly, I can’t think of anything more privileged than a CEO who, spoilers, is forced to sell his shares as part of a cleverly constructed corporate ploy, walking away with more money than almost anyone else is likely to see in their lifetimes. And he’s still given another shot at redemption, like some sort of privileged social baptism? No thanks, and that’s the biggest drawback of this film. If we had seen César actually find redemption and reform the atmosphere of his company, not to mention himself, then we’re heading in the right direction. And there’s no performance or direction that can save the film from its scripted ending. Not even the excellent original soundtrack by Jimmy Barnatán & The Cocooners, which I highly recommend anyone who loves guitar-driven blues to check out.
“Jefe” (2018) is a dark comedy about one boss’ downward spiral, set over six days confined within an office building, and with a cast of interesting, but mostly unlikeable characters. It may not have the sense of completion every audience might be looking for, but it does excel at situational comedy, and keeps you thinking and hoping until the end. Fans of corporate comedies, who can look past the very real fallout when companies fail, should check out this film for a fun ninety minutes.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 6.8/10
“Jefe” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.