By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Race, class and politics take center stage in the dark comedy, “Beatriz at Dinner”
from director Miguel Arteta (“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”).
Salma Hayek stars as Beatriz, a working class, holistic medicine practitioner and massage therapist trying to make a decent living in Los Angeles/Altadena.
She resides in a modest house with her pet dogs and goats. For the most part Beatriz keeps to herself and has earned a good reputation among many of her well-heeled clients.
Among them is Cathy (Connie Britton, TV’s “American Dad!” and “Nashville”). Beatriz and Cathy have become very good friends mainly since Beatriz helped her teenage daughter when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Whenever Cathy is stressed and needs a message at the last minute, Beatriz is able to always squeeze her in and take good care of her.
Cathy is planning a swanky dinner party and wants Beatriz to swing by for a massage. Beatriz hops in her dusty, old compact car and arrives at Cathy’s tony crib in Newport Beach—albeit late due to traffic—and soon gets everything ready.
But when Beatriz gets ready to leave, her car won’t start. Cathy insists she just stay with them for dinner and worry about it later, much to the dismay of her husband, Grant, (David Warshofsky, TV’s “Scandal”).
After all, Beatriz will be out of her league among the Gucci and Prada wearing movers and shakers that will be at the party like real estate/business tycoon Doug Strutt (John Lithgow, TV’s “Trial & Error”) and his wife Jeana (Amy Landecker, TV’s “Transparent”) along with Alex (Jay Duplass, TV’s “Transparent” and “The Mindy Project”) and his significant other, Shannon (Chloe Sevigny, TV’s “Bloodline”).
The fireworks go boom when Doug and Beatriz cross paths, first when Doug mistakes her for the hired help and asks her to fetch him another drink.
Beatriz swears she knows or has seen this guy somewhere. There’s a reason why she needs to know who Doug is.
“Beatriz at Dinner” screenwriter Mike White (“School of Rock”) plays up the angst that’s slowly building between Beatriz and Doug.
Much of the banter starts out innocently enough and is at times humorous. But, after Beatriz knocks down one too many glasses of Chardonnay, the quaint dinner conversation turns so serious that Connie is forced to restrain Beatriz during one outburst that involves Doug showing off a vacation picture.
“Beatriz at Dinner” could have just featured the one-on-one duel between Lithgow and Hayek. Their fiery verbal sparring is by far the most riveting aspect of the movie, although it does get a bit too heavy handed midway through with its political bent and loses much of its juice.
Still, Lithgow and Hayek are what makes “Beatriz at Dinner” inviting.
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Look At This Trailer For "BEATRIZ AT DINNER"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.