Good performances can’t save Beatriz At Dinner
, a heavy-handed and poorly-written look at the war between the haves and have-nots. Beatriz (Salma Hayek
) is a holistic healer and masseuse from Mexico who maneuvers L.A. traffic in her run-down Vw as she hurries from her job at a cancer facility to the gated mansion of Cathy (Connie Britton
). The wealthy woman considers Beatrix a ‘family friend’ since she helped her daughter through a recent illness. Cathy needs a massage before the important dinner party she’s hosting that night for some of her husband Grant’s (David Warshofsky
) business associates. When Beatriz can’t get her car started in the driveway, Cathy impulsively invites her to spend the night and join the dinner. Once the guests arrive, things get uncomfortable. First to show up are Alex
) and Shannon (Chloe Sevigny
), young social-climbers impressed by Cathy and Grant’s upscale lifestyle. But things get truly awkward when Grant’s boss Doug Strutt (John Lithgow
), an unscrupulous real-estate developer and his wife Jenna (Amy Landecker
) arrive. Strutt and Beatriz, who he initially confuses for the wait staff, couldn’t be less alike. Where she is a bohemian spirit with deep connection to all living beings, he is larger-than-life, cunning and focused on success. While she’s grieving over a pet goat recently murdered by a neighbor, he’s bragging about the endangered birds he wants removed from the land earmarked for his latest development (subtlety’s not a strong point here). As they dine, Beatriz listens in on the conversations of these people whose views on politics and profit are so foreign to her. They in turn either humor or ignore her. The fireworks begin after Beatriz, fortified by a few glasses of wine, begins to speak her mind.Beatriz At Dinner
is especially disappointing as it comes from writer Mike White
and director Miguel Arteta
, the team behind the brilliant 2000 black comedy Chuck
& Buck, a squirmy film I often quote (“I didn’t say to act like a retarded kid”). Their new film’s biggest problem is that the script is shallow and lacks subtlety. These characters are caricatures, painted with a broad brush, which might be fine if this was satire but it’s all played so dead serious. Pure-hearted Beatriz may as well have a halo around her head while Strutt is simply a boorish, bigoted jerk lacking any nuance and his behavior just doesn’t ring true. Successful men don’t say “You’re from Mexico? Legally?”, when meeting a Latino woman (they may think it), and just when you think Strutt can’t be anymore exaggerated, the screenplay kicks his douchebaggery up a notch. Strutt is a big game hunter (because of course he is), who whips out his phone and passes it around to show everyone the photo of him standing triumphantly over the enormous dead rhino he’s bagged. By this point Beatriz has already been established as the sensitive Earth-mother type, so to hand her the phone to take a look at Strutt’s kill makes even less sense than an earlier scene where the clueless wives assume she wants to look at a pic of some celebrities’ herpes-infested genitals.
While the characters may be sterotypes and the message ham-handed, the actors are all good. Lithgow is terrific, but I wish they’d thought outside the box in terms of casting Strutt. He just played a variation of this guy in The Accountant
and it’s the type of part Lithgow can play in his sleep. Though just 85 minutes, Beatriz At Dinner
still seems padded, mostly with long stretches of Beatriz gazing into the camera, make-up free, her brow furrowed in soulful contemplation. At one point Cathy claims Beatriz is like a Saint and that birds probably fly down and land on her shoulders like Snow White. That would have been a better fantasy/dream sequence that the ill-advised one we’re given involving murderous wish-fulfillment that cheapens the actual, tragic finale. Having these two skilled actors go head-to -head does make Beatriz At Dinner
easier to digest, but I still can’t recommend it.
2 of 5 StarsBeatriz At Dinner
opens in St. Louis June 23rd at The fabulous Hi-Pointe Theater and Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Theater
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– Review appeared first on We Are Movie Geeks.