Director Miguel Areteta and writer Mike White each have an arsenal full of comedies -- Mike White's works include NACHO LIBRE and SCHOOL OF ROCK, while Areteta somehow furthered his career with comedies after YOUTH IN REVOLT -- but when the two combine, an uncomfortably candid drama unfolds.Though not without its scattering of darkly comedic moments, BEATRIZ AT DINNER is a formidable satirization of the current ambience of political affairs involving immigration issues.
Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a healer -- soft voice, house full of meaningful trinkets, always seeing the spiritual side of things. She has pet goats.
As the introduction of the film sinks us into her character, Beatriz weaves her way through an opposing worldview, opening a window of spirituality in the lavish home of the elites who pay for her services. One such family is that of Cathy and Grant (Connie Britton and David Warshofsky), whose daughter Beatriz previously worked with to get her through the stages of cancer.
While it is clear that Cathy and Grant grateful for Beatriz's services, the choices they make in their "harmless" but telling dialogue reveal that they value their lifestyle and image more than Beatriz's actual company. When Beatriz's car breaks down in their driveway, Cathy invites her to stay for a dinner they are hosting, and later to spend the night -- an invitation she extends in front of her moneyed peers, of course, who recognize the action as charitable. Here, Beatriz's friendship is convenient -- but that is a facade that will not last the night.
Enter Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). Mr. Strutt is a business executive -- white, male, and abusing his privilege, he hunts animals for enjoyment and has little concern for the welfare of others if it means making an extra buck. His new hotel - the raising of which is the reason behind the dinner - has attracted protestors, and so begins the conversation that triggers a fiery relationship between him and Beatriz, fueled by the haunting of Beatriz's past and an unavoidable butting of heads between two dominant personalities.
The film very expressly makes a statement, not only about prejudices -- the conflicting cultures are so beautifully etched out, and Beatriz's anger at the actions that Mr. Strutt takes is visceral -- but also about the struggle that many minorities find in feeling a sense of belonging. From her position at the peripheral, Beatriz fights hard to find her center. Havek gives a moving performance, balanced well by Lithgow's slimeball affect.
BEATRIZ AT DINNER is now playing at Midtown Cinema! Don't miss this one.