Sunday, July 9, 2017

Movie: Beatriz at Dinner


Beatriz at Dinner:  an entertaining movie that speaks to the present social, economic and lifestyle divisions within American society.  Beatriz (Salma Hayek), who was born in Mexico, is a massage therapist.  In the opening scene, she is dreaming about rowing a boat through a mangrove swamp where she encounters a white goat on the shore.  In the next scene, Beatriz is caring for her animals, including a goat, before going to work.  Although she treats most of her clients at a medical center, Beatriz also does house visits.  One of her house clients is Kathy (Connie Britton), a very wealthy woman with an elaborate home in Orange County, California.  During the massage session, we learn that Beatriz and Kathy became close while Beatriz was providing massage therapy to Kathy’s daughter to help the daughter regain her strength following cancer treatments.  We also learn that Beatriz’s neighbor killed one of her goats simply because it was making too much noise.  Upon leaving, Beatriz learns that her car won’t start and she needs to wait for a friend to pick her up.  Kathy invites Beatriz to join her for a dinner party at the residence.  The guests are Kathy’s husband Grant (David Warshofsky), Grant’s boss Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), Doug’s third wife Jeana (Amy Landecker), and Alex (Jay Duplass) and his wife Shannon (Chloe Sevigny).  Alex scored a major political lobbying victory, which will produce a substantial income for Doug’s company.  The dinner is in celebration of Alex’s success.  This 83 minute film becomes truly interesting when Doug, a Trump-like entrepreneur, and Beatriz start interacting.  Doug is a multi-millionaire with a history of legal entanglements and is often in the news.  Lithgow’s performance is excellent, and part of the reason this film works is because Lithgow’s character is presented as a complex person with a humorous side.  The first hour has some very funny scenes, especially when Doug and Beatriz are involved.  Miguel Arteta is the film’s director and Mike White wrote the screenplay.  None of the main characters are stereotypes and the dialogue has a very entertaining edge to it.  The downside of the film is that once the issues of class, wealth and life style are laid out via the dinner dialogue, it seems that Arteta and White are at a loss as to what to do with the characters and how to finish the story.  As is my policy, I will not reveal the ending.  I would categorize the ending as “artsy” but it left me feeling very unsatisfied.  There are no special effects in this film, just excellent acting.  This is a film to see at home to take advantage of the ability to rewind and re-watch the interactions between Doug and Beatriz, two people with very different backgrounds.  Except for the inadequate and unsatisfying conclusion, Beatriz at Dinner has a significant level of positive energy and is worthwhile seeing.