MPAA Rating: R
for language and a scene of violence
Runtime: 83 minutes
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton
Even if he’d tried, screenwriter Mike White couldn’t have written a more relevant script than Beatriz at Dinner,” a Trump-age dramedy written for Salma Hayek and director Miguel Arteta.
This country’s split between haves and have-nots is painfully (and sometimes comically) laid bare in this piece which eventually pits two people with diametrically opposed viewpoints on life and what matters.
Hayek plays Beatriz, a spiritual healer (and Mexican immigrant) whose impassive, soulful eyes seem to mask underlying pain. Beatriz lives with her dogs and goats and believes that positivity can heal the world. Her car mirror sports icons of Buddha and the Virgin Mary. She does massage yoga, meditation and the like, mostly with sick and dying clients.
This day Beatriz makes the traffic-choked drive from work in a Los Angeles clinic to a Newport Beach mansion for a massage appointment with client Cathy (Connie Britton).
When her car won’t start for the return trip, Beatriz, calls a friend for help, but it will take some time before he can arrive.
Meanwhile, Cathy and her husband Grant (David Warshofsky) are having two couples over for a dinner party with real estate movers and shakers, the type who think nothing of despoiling the earth as long as they profit from it. Tonight they’re celebrating the success of developer Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) in snagging yet another property for development.
Lithgow, Salma Hayek
Despite Beatriz’s working-girl blue khakis (and though neither Grant nor Beatriz think this a great idea), Cathy invites her to join the party. She accepts only because she’s stuck there anyway.
Here she will encounter the magnificently detestable Lithgow as Strutt, who first takes her for the hired help, then asks if she crossed the border legally. To compound that, he waxes nostalgic about the poetry of hunting.
Meanwhile, Hayek’s Beatriz seethes silently, coached by Arteta to give nothing away with her eyes until the inevitable blowup.
But Doug’s mention of his pride at bagging a rhino in Africa is the last straw for Beatriz, who calls that “revolting,” and the civility level of the discourse predictably descends from there.
What Strutt does may be despicable, but Lithgow nonetheless manages to convince us that what he does may not be God’s work, but he does it extraordinarily well and even with a fair amount of humor.
Hayek’s Beatriz has no humor but plenty of conviction and dignity. With the wine flowing freely, and these two in one room, the inevitable is only a few glasses away.
Beatriz isn’t a brilliant film – it’s too predictable for that, and the ending is a cop-out. Still, Beatriz at Dinner provides an engaging exploration of the American class and attitude chasm.