"For the Trump Era"
A Review of "Beatriz at Dinner" by Nathan H. Box
Director: Miguel Arteta, Writer: Mike White, Stars: Salma Hayek, Chloe Sevigny, John Lithgow
Rating: 4 Stars, SHOWTIME!
For my 9th film of the Seattle International Film Festival, I decided to see a film dripping with awkwardness. In "Beatriz at Dinner," Salma Hayek plays Beatriz, a holistic medicine practitioner. Attending to needs of a wealthy client named Cathy, played by Connie Britton, Beatriz finds herself giving a massage in an effort to help her relax before hosting a celebratory dinner for her husband's business partners. We will later discover there is much more history to this relationship than we realize. With this knowledge in hand, this story gets even juicier.
After the massage is finished, Beatriz returns to her car to discover it won't start. Having an established relationship with the family, she is invited to stay for dinner. Later she discovers the person she called hoping to get some help won't be able to assist until the next day. When her hosts find this out, she is asked to just stay the night.
Sitting around the dinner table, Beatriz meets her nemesis, Doug Strutt played by John Lithgow. Here, the audience is introduced to the conflict and that is a tale of two different and divergent worlds. On one hand, is the world of Beatriz. She is an immigrant to the U.S., earning a meager salary, and is a strong believer in people before profit. On the other hand is Doug, who is wealthy, condescending, snobbish, and believes in profit above all else. Once this information is made clear to the audience, the rest of the evening plays out like a couple of gunslingers going at it.
What I appreciate about this film is its earnest effort not to preach. Doug is very unlikeable if you don't agree with his worldview. My friends on the right might find his ability to offend liberals endearing. I assume they will find Beatriz's worldview downright communist. This film does an amazing job of exploring the political polarization that has consumed the way we interact with each other. Without a doubt, this is the first perfect film of the Trump era. It doesn't pretend to have all the answers and nor should it. But it does hope to start a conversation and sitting down to a warm meal together is usually a wonderful starting point.
Be good to each other,