Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a holistic healer and massage therapist who lives and works in Los Angeles. After a routine visit to a wealthy client’s luxe home, she finds herself stranded when her car breaks down. Her client (Connie Britton) invites her to stay for dinner and trouble quickly ensues once Beatriz meets fellow dinner guest Doug (John Lithgow) and the two clash.
Beatriz at Dinner is a poignant drama that addresses issues like white privilege, the mystery of evil, and depression. It is categorized as a “dark comedy” and aptly so. Moments of humor are matched with morbid dialogue and imagery. It’s quite an interesting marriage, but provides for great entertainment.
Hayek’s performance is easily the best part of this film. She is captivating as Beatriz and says so much with her expressions and mannerisms while interacting with the other actors. I was greatly impressed by how effortlessly she slips into this role; at first glance Beatriz is quiet, unassuming, and thoughtful. As the film progresses she proves to be quite a firecracker.
Everything about Beatriz is different from the other guests, which I believe is completely intentional. Her clothing, stature, and skin color are the most apparent, but it’s also her underlying beliefs and notions that really separate her from everyone else.
Beatriz describes herself as a “healer” and believes her purpose on earth is easing the pain of others. Conversely, Lithgow’s character Doug is a real-estate mogul who creates pain for others and bears no remorse for his actions. The scenes involving these two are so intense that they are almost uncomfortable to watch. Actually most of the scenes in the movie- even the ones away from the dinner table- are filled with awkward pauses and uncomfortable glances around the room.
Perhaps the most cringe-worthy moment comes when Doug accusingly asks Beatriz if she and her family came to the states illegally. It’s a moment many POC can relate to and though it might seem insignificant to some, I couldn’t help but wonder what it means during this current administration and political climate to be an immigrant. Something I hope is not lost on the audience.
Connie Britton’s character Cathy is somewhat sympathetic to Beatriz, but she treats the woman mostly like a pet, gloating to her friends about how she’s part of the family, even though she knows very little about Beatriz. Cathy’s husband Grant, played by David Warshofsky, barely hides his contempt for the guest. He works for Doug and throughout the film defers to the ruthless businessman so much and so often that it hardly goes unnoticed.
Lithgow’s character is definitely the villain of the film, especially in the eyes of Beatriz who doesn’t shy away from confronting him when she finds out he destroys people and their property for his own gain.
The final moments of Beatriz at Dinner are open to widely different interpretations. I must admit that I found this slightly annoying because I already had an idea of how it would close and the outcome was completely different.
Very early on I drew several comparisons between this film and Get Out. I anticipated seeing Beatriz as the hero of the story, much like we see Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) get to be the hero in Peele’s film. However, that’s just not the case here. While Beatriz is surely at peace by the film’s closing she’s no hero and there is little to no hope that she has effected any real change in the other characters.
All in all this is a film that creates discussion and I would imagine that a filmmaker really can’t hope for much more than that.
Beatriz at Dinner reunites director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White for a third time. The two previously worked together on Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl. This film stars Salma Hayek, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Chloe Sevigny, David Warshofsky and John Lithgow. It is currently available at RedBox!
What are some of your favorite “dark comedies”? Let me know in the comments below!