Beatriz at Dinner has a great premise. Salma Hayek plays a massage therapist/holistic healer who finds herself stranded at the home of a wealthy client when her car breaks down. The client, a wonderful Connie Britton, invites her to eat dinner while she waits for the mechanic. Also present at the dinner is a real-estate mogul played with relish by John Lithgow. And so cultures clash. People are, I think, overrating this movie somewhat simply because it plays so specifically to the Trump era; if Clinton had won the 2016 election, this movie might have been seen as it is, which is fairly shallow, instead of being praised for a lot of profundity that it doesn’t actually have. The movie is good though. Hayek is brilliant. I honestly think I’d call it her best performance. The movie gets a few chuckles at her expense by not making her a stereotypically wise minority figure; she is a little loopy and her holistic healer schtick is pretty hippy dippy. But as the film goes on, the movie starts stripping away her exterior and revealing a character that’s deeply sad; the word that kept coming to mind for me was sorrow and Hayek seems to have it bone-deep and a quiet weariness too. Really, even if nothing else worked, the movie would be worth watching for her performance alone. Lithgow is good, but his character, obviously a Trump stand-in, is underwritten and pretty cartoonish. I wish the movie had the nerve to try to actually get inside his head instead of just playing him as purely villainous. The best scenes come when you see his humanity in brief glimpses. There’s a wonderful moment near the end where he and Hayek just look at each other across a room and it’s about as human as he’s gotten. There’s also a great scene of the entire dinner party sitting out on a patio that is just brilliant. Arteta has an eye for atmosphere and he imbues the house where almost the entire movie takes place with real beauty as late evening fades into dusk and then on into night. A great score by Mark Mothersbaugh helps with this as does the usage of some wonderful Brian Eno music. At just a hair over eighty minutes, it doesn’t wear its welcome out and its certainly an interesting film. If it seems like writer Mike White basically had the idea for the premise but wasn’t entirely sure where to go with it at times, well, that’s probably true; the ending in particular is really disappointing and strange – there’s ultimately no sense of real catharsis which you’d think would be the point. Still, I mostly liked the movie and Hayek’s performance is absolutely award-worthy. The script meanders, loses the point and doesn’t dig as deep as it should, but it still gets in some nice scenes here and there. Not the great film it could have been, but of interest. 3 stars.
tl;dr – Hayek gives a luminous, brilliant performance in this culture clash movie; the script is disappointingly shallow & confused at times, but there are good scenes & lots of atmosphere. 3 stars.