Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner

Tonight I saw Beatriz at Dinner, starring Salma Hayek and Connie Britton.

Beatriz (Hayek) is a Mexican healer who gives her affluent client Cathy (Britton) a massage after a losing a beloved pet. She can't hide her grief, but Cathy is compassionate and listens to her as she tells the story of an angry neighbor who killed her goat. As she's leaving the mansion, her car breaks down so she calls a friend to come and fix it. It will be a few hours until he can get there, so Cathy invites her to stay for dinner.

At the meal are Cathy and her husband, plus two couples. Both of the men work with her husband in the real estate development business. All of them are white.

Beatriz awkwardly greets the dinner party visitors with warm hugs instead of the cold handshakes they're used to and the night is off to a weird start. The more wine Beatriz drinks, the more honest she becomes and soon the polite conversation turns contentious.

John Lithgow is condescending and cool as the mogul Doug, who everyone seems to be kissing up to. Immediately he stereotypes Beatriz, asking her first to get him a drink (mistaking her for the help), then joking that maybe she once danced in Vegas when she mentions he looks familiar. 

During the meal, Beatriz has a small meltdown when she mistakes Doug for a corporate animal who ruined her home town in Mexico. She leaves the group to rest and uncovers something more. The story continues with her return to the party.

The film is very light on actual action, but the dialog here crackles so easily that's it's hard to notice. Every note of every word is carefully chosen either by the two who are sparring or those aiming to diffuse them.

It's hard to take your eyes of off Hayek, as her performance has so many dimensions. She emotes from deep within her eyes and carries herself as a confident holistic healer offended by soulless people would.

Alternately, Lithgow makes small sparks of his character redeeming, yet we can't help but shake our heads in disgust at his behavior.

A quiet—but no less powerful—commentary on our culturally volatile times.


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