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Boss of It All, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Payng The Cost To Pretend To Be The Boss"
2 stars

At the beginning of his latest work, “The Boss Of It All,” writer-director Lars Von Trier appears via voice-over to assure us that the film we are about to see “won’t be worth a moment’s reflection” and then spends the next 90-odd minutes making sure that his prophecy will come true. Although the very idea of the film–a reasonably light and frothy comedy from the man behind such heavy dramas as “Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark” and “Dogville”–may be enough to pique the interest of some filmgoers, the combination of a relatively limp screenplay and an inexplicable stylistic decision results in a film so draggy and oppressive that they will emerge from it feeling as if they had actually been sitting through one of those wrenching melodramas instead–the difference being that “Dogville” had more genuine laughs

As the film opens, Ravn (Peter Gantzler), the owner of a profitable Danish IT firm, is in the middle of a business deal that will allow him to sell his company to an Icelandic concern, screw over his six longtime partners and make a ton of money for himself. The deal hits a snag, however, when the Icelanders insist on meeting the head of the firm before signing the contracts. You see, while Ravn owns the company, his aversion to confrontation led him to simply invent a higher-up–the so-called “boss of it all”–on whom he can blame any unpopular decision so that his co-workers will continue to like him. In desperation, he hires small-time actor Kristoffer (Jens Albinus) to portray the role of the non-existent boss so that he can sign off on the deal and take the blame for it when the other partners discover what has happened.

Inevitably, the deal doesn’t go off quite as planned and Ravn is forced to keep Kristoffer as “the boss” for another week until the Icelanders can be brought back to the table. At first, Kristoffer, a wanna-be method actor, is stumped as to what to do–he is just as clueless during a tech meeting as you or I might be–but Ravn soon tells him that the best way to get through the week is to just “yes” to every request that comes his way. At first, this is easy enough but as the week progresses, things get more complicated and Kristoffer finds himself at an ethical crossroads. Does he blow the act by doing the right thing and informing the partners about the plot or does he stay true to his art and follow through with the scheme? Then again, once it turns out that he has an unexpected connection with the attorney representing the Icelanders, the entire scheme may wind up falling apart long before he gets to make that choice for himself.

Then again, those of you watching the film may find yourself becoming too distracted with the bizarre visual style of the film–weird camera angles, unmotivated jump cuts and the like–to even register what is going on with the story for the most part. You see, Von Trier, the man who co-created the infamous Dogme 95 film movement and who shot “Dogville” and “Manderlay” entirely on bare soundstages with chalk outlines to suggest the various locations, has come up with another stylistic gambit to impress those who are easily impressed and annoy those who aren’t. This time, he has shot the film using an automated computer-controlled camera set-up in which he sets up the basic camera positions and would then press a button that would allow the computer to then randomly makes all the other decisions regarding the filming of the scenes–Von Trier then took the footage that the computer shot and edited it together. In theory, I guess this approach could yield some intriguing results in much the way that cut-up poetry can occasionally cough up something profound. Here, however, the experiment is a resounding failure because the style is so oppressive that it is all that we can think about–comedy needs to develop its own distinct rhythm in order to succeed and all that the random pans and cuts do is disrupt that rhythm so that the humor never gets a chance to build. Look, I am all in favor of filmmakers find new and unique ways in which to approach their material but what Von Trier has done here is likely to amuse him and precious few others. (Of course, if his reported bouts of depression are the truth and not just more hype from his camp, maybe it isn’t even amusing him.)

Would I have liked “The Boss Of It All” if it had been shot under more conventional circumstances? I dunno. On the one hand, the material simply isn’t that funny–its idea of hilarious hijinks is to have the company’s HR hottie (Iben Hjejle) offer herself up on Kristoffer’s desk so that she can prove to herself that he isn’t as gay as she thinks he is pretending to be–and as a satire of inter-office politics, it falls far short of the lofty heights of “The Office” or “Office Space.” On the other hand, it does have a game cast and even though it must have been somewhat of an insult to find their work being dictated by a computer, there is never a moment when they aren’t up there giving it their all. My only hope is that someone was around to shoot one of those behind-the-scenes documentaries of the production of this film–I suspect that film might wind up being more incisive and a lot funnier than anything seen here.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15997&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/05/07 21:35:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/30/08 sam Not that great .. only redeeming quality: not a hollywood movie 2 stars
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  23-May-2007 (NR)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2007



Directed by
  Lars Von Trier

Written by
  Lars Von Trier

  Iben Hjejle
  Jens Albinus
  Peter Gantzler

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