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César (Luis Callejo) is the hedonistic, egocentric, bullish boss of a failing company. Unwilling to let staff go during an industry downturn, his life goes to crap when, after a particularly raucous weekend, he goes to the company board meeting and is told that the company is in serious trouble and they have only a week to prevent the company from going under.
The same day his estranged wife sends a messenger to file for divorce. It’s only Monday. That same night, unable to go home to his wife, he stays in the office entertaining a lady of the night and falls asleep.
He wakes up and staggers, naked, to go and find something to eat. Whilst at the vending machine he is startled—and still naked—as the cleaner comes to his floor.
He hides behind his desk and watches her as she dances and snoops around the office, taking a shower and making a phone call to her mother. César is taken by the cleaner and the next day he finds out who she is. Ariana (Juana Acosta).
He tracks her down and they bond over a bottle of wine and snoop around the offices. The night passes and he asks if he will see her the next night, she is working so, of course. Wednesday comes and his week really gets bad.
Javier (Josean Bengoetxea), one of César’s closest confidants, takes him for a clandestine meeting with Pereira (Dalila Carmo) and she tells him that someone in the company has been skimming company funds to the tune of fifteen million euros. César hits the roof and calls a board meeting. He tells them that he wants the culprit.
Later in the evening, he meets Ariana again. She tells him that she is leaving and returning to Colombia to be with her son. The next day will be her last. Thursday comes around.
Gómez (Carlo D’Ursi), a sniveling suck-up of an employee, comes and tells César that Javier stole the money and is planning to take over the company. César, who had always treated Gómez with little, to no, respect, and his mind addled from to much booze and cocaine, believes Gómez. He fires Javier.
Ariana, curious as to why César’s best friend would betray him. She finds out that Gómez has a secret, locked away in a cupboard in his office. César finds the ledger and Gómez confesses to stealing the money, along with the rest of the board. All of them except Javier. Gómez has also been sleeping with his wife, Laura (Diana Lázaro).
Laura comes to see César. He believes that it was she who instigated the company takeover. She wants him to surrender the company without a fight. She wants the money for their son. César contacts Javier to apologise. They come up with a plan. César resigns, but Javier has leaked the story of embezzling to the press, sinking the company. Gómez and the rest of the board realise that they have lost.
The comedy, Jefe, is a beautifully shot film, with crisp, daylight blue hues dominating daytime and pale straw colours for the night and evening. Most of the comedy comes from the central performance by Luis Callejo as César. He portrays the roguish, gruff, cocaine-snorting, hard-living boss, perfectly.
César is, in spite of his many flaws, likable. He works hard and plays hard, but he wants the best for his company and his employees. His inability to stop self-sabotaging and fix his own life is what leads to his predicament.
In Juana Acosta’s Ariana, he finds an unlikely ally and someone with more life clarity than he has had in a while. Though their meeting and bond seem unlikely, Callejo and Acosta’s performances allow you to suspend disbelief and just go with the oddball alliance. Ariana too is instantly likable, a single woman working far away from home to support her family, not bemoaning her lot in life. Instead, she finds joy even in her mundane job.
Jefe is not a laugh out loud comedy, though it does, for me at least, have some laugh out loud moments. A lot of the comedy comes from César’s refusal to accept that he is the reason his life is how it is. Also, the way he bullies Gómez is awkwardly amusing.
At eighty-nine minutes long, Jefe is pretty much the perfect length for a comedy, and with the story being pretty much secondary to the feels and the comedy, it manages to be both entertaining and a little heartwarming. Not to be bossy but, give Jefe a look. It will raise a smile.