Golden Balls (1993)

Directed by
On the nose critique of toxic masculinity
Reviewed by Simon on 2024-01-28

Benito González is a young man with big ambitions and no money. After working as a bricky in the army he realises that the Spanish property boom is the door to his ambitions, and he just needs to use his confidence and charisma to open it.

Javier Bardem is the perfect choice for the role of Benito, intimidatingly masculine but not one-dimensionally so. His love of Julio Iglesias and his fragile ego mark him as a victim of a toxic culture as much as a villain.

Everybody else is a minor character in Benito's story, just as he sees it, but Maria de Medeiros imparts more impact to the role of Marta than the script itself might.

I first saw this on VHS in the 1990's and considered it a lesser entry in Bigas Luna's filmography, and I'm not necessarily revising that opinion after rewatching it 25 years later. It broadly explores the same themes as JAMON, JAMON but without the balancing femininity of Penelope Cruz.

The film's symbolism is comically on the nose, Benito's guiding dream is explicitly to build the biggest and most phallic tower in town, the blurring of sex and desire with property and ownership repeatedly emphasised.

Ultimately González Tower is brought crashing down just as Benito is, his huevos de oro symbolically smashed on its façade. He ends up moving to Miami a broken man, where he is further emasculated by a very young Benicio Del Toro, leaving his dreams in tatters.

The film is not very true to life in this regard, as we now know that he would most likely have become President of the United States. Well, I suppose there's still time for life to vindicate art on that one.