Argentine helmer Marcelo Pineyro’s “The Gronholm Method,” reps a slick adaptation of Jordi Galceran Ferrer’s popular play about job applicants forced to undergo a strange battery of tests to win a position at a Madrid firm. Imagine “Survivor” by way of Enron, toss in the heady background of anti-globalization protests in the streets below the skyscraper in which the drama’s contained, and you have a nifty commercial item in Spanish-lingo territories (pic opened in Spain the week after its Toronto preem) with an outside bid at an English-language remake.
Expanding the number of participants in Galceran’s original, Mateo Gil’s and Pineyro’s script presents a septet of hopeful mid-management types going after the same position in an imposing-looking company whose product line is amusingly never revealed. Sometimes audible outside the massive windows looking out on a Manhattan-like Madrid skyline are the thundering chants of anti-globalization marchers. Ushered into a high-tech office by a secretary (Natalia Verbeke) with the smile of a snake, the job-seekers (Eduardo Noriega, Najwa Nimri, Eduard Fernandez, Pablo Echarri, Ernesto Alterio, Carmelo Gomez and Adriana Ozores) eye each with suspicion.
Early rounds of verbal, number-based and psychological games sometimes feel like the stuff of a Pinter exchange. Alterio’s obsequious Enrique is eliminated in a hilarious debate over who is a rat and who isn’t. Eventually, a generational division takes hold — with Carlos (Noriega) and past flame Nieves (Nimri) at the younger end, and Fernandez’s overly macho Fernando on the mid-aged side.
Pineyro has fun with a superbly realized farcical aside in the men’s bathroom involving Noriega, Fernandez and two business shirts.
Guessing the identity of “The Mole” in the group is half the fun of the watching; the term is used so often, it’s a sign the pic is aware of the reality TV trend being teased.
Denouement proves a mild disappointment, confirming the worst fears about corporate mendacity, with an exit that needlessly draws a Stanley Kramer-like overemphasis to the politics in the streets below.
The suave Noriega (“The Devil’s Backbone,” Pineyro’s “Burnt Money”) stands out in the ensemble for his cool yet inviting manner, bookended by Nimri’s savvy instincts and Fernandez’ comically self-consciousmachismo.
Smartly and seamlessly blending a cast of talented Argentine and Spanish thesps, Pineyro seems to be testing how much cinema he can derive from a restricted space.
Alfredo Mayo’s smashing widescreen lensing greatly expands the conference room confines, and is partnered with Veronica Toledo doing impressive double duty on costumes and production design (including a fabulous Madrid city backdrop and sleek interior decor.