Review: 'The Boss of It All' a screwball comedy

Having long seemed to be either sticking out his tongue or wagging a finger between patches of brilliance, Danish punk-moralist Lars von Trier lightens up and almost grows up with “The Boss of It All,” a workplace comedy. Representing a tonal shift from his worthy but oppressive “Dogville” and “Manderlay,” the movie isn’t quite the mix of screwball trifle and wicked satire that von Trier may be aiming for. But it’s sufficiently witty and entertaining to constitute notable art-house fare.

This “film won’t cause you more than a moment’s reflection,” says its occasional narrator, von Trier himself, ever in control as he explains the movie’s status as comedy. Those words are hooey, of course. Von Trier light is more severe than most Hollywood tragedy, and this movie, a farce about the abuse of power, abounds with plot and message.

The Denmark-set story involves a ruse created by an IT business owner named Ravn (Peter Gantzler), who, to maintain his loyal staff’s approval, has blamed the firm’s worker-unfriendly policies on an overseas superior, “Svend,” whom he’s fabricated. When Finnur (Thor Fridriksson), the humorless Dane-hating Icelander to whom Ravn plans to sell the company, demands that Svend appear in person, Ravn hires an actor, Kristoffer (Jens Albinus), to portray the honcho.

Complications arise when Kristoffer plays his role with more earnestness than Ravn bargained for. Kristoffer/Svend gets closely acquainted with Ravn’s “senior six” and sympathizes with these employees after learning that Ravn intends to betray them when he sells the firm. Will Svend sabotage Ravn’s scheme?

Von Trier, who cites Hollywood comedies like “Bringing Up Baby” as influences, lacks the froth chromosome that is necessary to make the film sparkle as such. Seemingly born with an arty-shaky camera in his heavy hand — or, in this case, employing a randomizing computer-controlled camera system called Automavision — the Dogme co-founder is too stringent to pull off material such as a bumpkin staffer who communicates with his fists.

But lightness still suits von Trier, and the film contains an amusing story, an IQ that justifies the characters’ talkiness, and, as always where von Trier is concerned, something to say and an original way of saying it.

The Boss of It All ***

Starring Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Iben Hjejle, Thor Fridriksson

Written and directed by Lars von Trier

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A person holds a sign at a vigil for Roger Allen, who was killed by Daly City Police on April 7. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Daly City asks state to probe fatal police shooting

Daly City officials have asked California Attorney General Rob Bonta to launch… Continue reading

Indoor dining at John’s Grill. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
State’s mask mandate to continue until June 15 reopening despite CDC guidance

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation California will wait until next… Continue reading

Officers stand beside a Mobile Command Center parked at U.N. Plaza in 2018 to combat crime and quality of life issues. (Michael Toren/Special to The S.F. Examiner)
Breed announces increase in police presence, community ambassadors in Mid-Market area

San Francisco will add more police officers to the Mid-Market area starting… Continue reading

International Bird Rescue helped save Bay Area birds that were contaminated by mysterious goo in 2015. <ins>(Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo)</ins>
International Bird Rescue marks 50 years of wildlife protection

Group established in wake of massive oil spill continues essential rehabilitation, research

Most Read