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Beatriz at Dinner (2017) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A holistic medicine practitioner attends a wealthy client's dinner party after her car breaks down.

  • Salma Hayek is stranded at a client's house and becomes a somewhat unwilling guest at a snooty dinner party that evening. She winds up being a thorn in the side of the hosts and their invited guests.

  • A woman of a very different background with very different perceptions of the world, synchronistically has dinner with a group of wealthy people. Her strongly expressed views uncomfortably challenge their relationship with land, people, place and animals.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Beatriz (Salma Hayek), a Hispanic woman in her late forties, wakes up from a dream in which she is in a rowboat in a mangrove swamp and sees a little white goat on the shore. She tends to her two dogs and a brown goat that she has penned-up in her bedroom, urging them to be quiet. She gets ready, mediates and lights candles at an altar with photos of a man and the white goat. She drives an old Volkswagon that is slow to start from her modest Los Angeles house to a cancer center where she treats patients with massage, aromatherapy and breathing exercises. She leaves in a hurry to drive to a client's home in Newport Beach, Orange County during rush hour, arriving at the grand house in the gated community a bit late.

    Her client Cathy (Connie Britton), the middle-aged wife of a builder, is hosting a party for some of her husband's business associates that evening. During the massage, Cathy talks about what a wonderful experience college is for her daughter, who Beatriz treated when she was recovering from chemotherapy several years before. Beatriz becomes sad and tells Cathy that she suspects her neighbor, who has made several noise complaints and asked the city to make her give up her goats, killed her white goat by breaking its neck while it was briefly in her yard.

    After the massage, Beatriz's car won't start. She calls a friend, who is unable to come until several hours later. Cathy impulsively invites Beatriz to join the dinner party insisting that she play guitar and sing a song after dinner. Her husband, Grant (David Warshofsky), privately protests the invitation on the grounds that they are hosting his most important business associate, but Cathy insists that Beatriz is a friend of the family and should be included.

    The first guests to arrive are a couple in their thirties, Alex and Shannon (Jay Duplass and Chloë Sevigny). While waiting for their hosts, they meet Beatriz and explain that Alex is a lawyer who just got a development approved by the California legislature after nearly two years of lobbying. An older couple named Doug and Jeana Strutt (John Lithgow and Amy Landecker) arrive and are met with great excitement by Cathy and Grant as well as Alex and Shannon, with Beatriz forgotten and hanging out in the periphery. Doug is a famous developer, and the couples have come together to celebrate the approval of their latest project. The men and women break off and have drinks outside. Cathy introduces Beatriz to the women and speaks highly of her empathy and skills as a healer. Beatriz tries to be open but withdraws when the women gossip mean-spiritedly about a celebrity. While Beatriz is out of earshot of the other women, Cathy briefly describes her tragic history of being separated from her immediate family as a child, having to leave her hometown, being raised by her grandmother in the U.S., and losing her husband under unclear circumstances.

    Beatriz's friend calls to tell her he is unable to come for her until tomorrow morning. Cathy invites her to stay the night in her daughter's old room. As everyone heads inside for dinner, Beatriz stops and listens to Doug talk about potential titles for his memoir. Doug mistakes Beatriz for a servant, asking her for another drink, and is unabashed when introduced. Beatriz thinks she knows Doug, but cannot place their association.

    At dinner, Beatriz talks too long and sincerely about herself for the comfort of the other guests. Doug interrupts her to ask if she came to the U.S. legally and rudely cuts her off mid-story. Doug commends her for being employed but explains that the world needs people like him who provide jobs. He talks about aggressively pushing their development forward despite pending lawsuits over an endangered bird and possible environmentalist protests, bragging that he has overcome much more opposition in the past.

    Beatriz explains that her hometown in Mexico was destroyed by a failed hotel and asks Doug if he was the developer, which he denies. Beatriz briefly leaves the party and makes a phone call, leaving a message to an unknown person in Spanish asking if it was Doug Strutt's company they protested against when their homes were seized for the hotel development.

    During dessert in the living room, Doug and his wife talk about their upcoming safari in South Africa. Doug gives an impassioned speech about having dined at the buffet of life and finding nothing as exciting and pure as hunting and killing a wild animal. He passes around his phone showing a photo of the rhinoceros he killed on his last safari. When Beatriz sees the photo, she calls it disgusting, throws the phone across the room at Doug and retreats to the kitchen. Cathy joins her and accepts her apologies and explanation that she isn't used to drinking, urging her to go to bed for the night.

    Alone in her room, Beatriz smokes a joint and continues to drink white wine while researching Doug Strutt on the internet. He has been involved in many controversial projects and has even evaded prison, presumably due to his vast resources to fight all charges of wrongdoing. Beatriz leaves another message in Spanish, this one heartfelt and longing, for the same unknown person as earlier. She takes the guitar she finds in the room and rejoins the party, offering a song as an apology for having been rude earlier. The song is in Spanish; she explains that it is about longing for a time when life was good but knowing that it is gone forever. She acknowledges that she and Doug don't know each other but that she had earlier thought they had been brought together by fate, perhaps so that she would have revenge by killing him. He says there are many men who do what he does and she agrees. She talks about how she has spent her life trying to heal people and how tired she has become from the endless need and her inability to do more. She tells Doug that while breaking something takes two seconds it can take a lifetime, many lifetimes to put it back together again. Cathy tries to intervene, but Beatriz tells her to shut up, declaring that the earth is dying and that they are not protected in their gated communities, that it will touch them, too.

    Grant removes her from the party and calls a tow truck to take her and her car home immediately. As Beatriz waits for the tow truck, she watches Doug talking on the phone in the foyer. The tow truck arrives and picks up her car, but she asks the driver to wait and goes back into the house. She takes a letter opener from Grant's desk, approaches Doug from behind and stabs him in the neck. As he dies with his head in her lap, the others come running in shouting. Cathy repeatedly asks her why she did this and Beatriz snaps out of her fantasy: she did not stabbed Doug, rather she is still watching him talk on his phone in the foyer. The letter opener drops from her hand, and she gets in the tow truck.

    As they drive along the ocean, Beatriz asks the tow truck driver to pull over. She makes her way down to the beach and walks into the water. As the waves close over her head, the people at the dinner party light and set loose sky lanterns. In the last scene, our view starts underwater and rises in the mangrove swamp of Beatriz's dream.

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