Beatriz at Dinner
Starring Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Chloë Sevigny, Jay Duplass, David Warshofsky
There are more great elements working for Beatriz at Dinner than against it, at the forefront, Selma Hayek. Mike White’s screenplay harks back to the first time he worked with director Miguel Arteta on The Good Girl (2002). That was a snappy, bold, but honest story about relationships. Beatriz at Dinner is the same vein of sarcasm, coupled with a heavy helping of reality in this new era of America. Like White/Arteta did for Jennifer Aniston (The Good Girl is still her best film work), Hayek delivers one of her most impressive performances. The screenplay is surprisingly balanced to show the perspective (or lack there-of) between rich and poor, liberal and conservative ideology all packaged beautifully in a dark comedy that’s among the years’ best and most thought provoking films.
A series of unfortunate circumstances land Beatriz Luna (Hayek), a healer and massage therapist, stuck at her client’s house in Newport Beach for the evening. Beatriz, who originated from Mexico, has worked with Grant (Warshofsky) and Cathy (Britton) ever since their daughter was diagnosed with cancer. “A miracle worker,” Cathy exclaims to her dinner guests, arriving at their multi million dollar home for a business celebration. Beatriz, the awkward seventh guest, is appalled at the things coming out of property mogul Doug Strutt’s mouth. Strutt (Lithgow) brags about killing big game in Africa, relocating birds in the way of a new land development and his many hotels, spread all over the world. Finally, Beatriz has enough, and everyone gets served a bit of her perspective.
Among the years’ best and most thought provoking films.
What starts off a bit like Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, quickly turns into something far more sharp and cunning. Hayek embodies a character you won’t find elsewhere on this big screen this summer. She isn’t a glamorous super hero wonder woman, nor the Latino diversity check mark of some skanky girls’ night out comedy and certainly no thankless supporting wife role. Hayek, for the first time since her Oscar nominated performance in Frida is written a role that reminds us of her tremendous talent not just her beauty. Beatriz is equal parts internal acting, absorbing what’s occurring around her, spitting out unfiltered responses to various conversations. To watch a group of people that are accustomed to saying what each other want to hear, it creates a delicious amount of tension that’s as uncomfortable to watch as it is fascinating.
White’s script uses the current political climate as a pivot point for conversations. Everything is discussed at this dinner from illegal game hunting to immigration issues. Lithgow (Interstellar) gives an impressively verbose performance as the privileged white man touting his success in front of someone he considers beneath him. That’s what makes this story so unique and in many ways realistic. There are items in the screenplay that scream false, like the check list of items they run through at a single dinner. White never portrays Beatriz as a saint either, she is certainly problematic and a little nuts, going on about her pet goats the way she does. Praise must also be given to the supporting cast, especially Britton (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), whose reactions to the appalling behavior Beatriz exhibits in later scenes are cringe worthy hilarious. It’s also a film that might deliver more insight on multiple viewings.
The first film of 2017 to offer something new and profound to the market.