“I married her for money. She’s an investment.”
In Bigas Luna’s film Golden Balls Benito Gonzalez (Javier Bardem) is a loutish, crude Spanish construction worker with ambitious plans to build the tallest building in the city. The film begins in Morocco, and Benito’s relationship with the lithe Rita (Elisa Tovati) is about to end badly. Benito–who’s not the sensitive sort–moves on to bigger and better things, and when the film picks up the story again, Benito is now back in Spain, the owner of a construction company assisted by Rita’s brother Mosca (Francisco Casares).
Even though Benito now has his foot on the first rung of the ladder to success, his character continues to trip him up. His construction company is on the brink of bankruptcy. He works without permits, breaking the rules along the way to his ambition to build the Gonzalez Tower (with its own massage parlour)–a homage to his ego, and also, the film makes clear–a giant phallic symbol. When Benito runs out of money, he manipulates his latest love, secretary and would-be actress Claudia (Maribel Verdu) into sleeping with an influential banker, and when that plan fails, he marries the banker’s naive daughter, Marta (Maria de Medieros).
Golden Balls is the story of the rise and inevitable fall of Benito–a second rate Lothario whose machismo-ridden character brings success but also destroys him. Bigas Luna’s film is a wry sexual farce that examines Benito’s progress in the world as he uses the women in his life to get ahead. A devotee of Julio Iglesias, who’s fond of Karaoke, when Benito finally gets money, his crass, lavish lifestyle includes two Rolex watches and his fulfilled dream of possessing his very own lobster tank. Similarly, the women in Benito’s life are also his possessions. Believing he “moves better” with a woman with an ideal weight of 94 lbs, he obsesses about their weights. While his motto is “always be generous with women and politicians” in reality, to Benito that sometimes translates to promising women their own bidets.
Javier Bardem fans will enjoy this sly film and its characterization of the larger-than-life Benito and his equally disproportionate ego. I’ve seen a couple of different covers for this DVD, and on my copy, Bardem is depicted grabbing his crotch; that just about says it all for his character. With over-the-top phallic symbolism, Bigas Luna charts Benito’s clumsy progress through Spanish society and his goal to “move in a different sphere.” Ultimately, Golden Balls shows that whatever sphere of society we may move to, we take our characters along with us–for better or for worse. Keep your eyes open for Benicio Del Toro in a small role. In Spanish with subtitles.