Monday, July 10, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Beatriz at Dinner is a film that is certain to have people who like it, people who hate it, & most importantly, a film that is certain to make people think long & hard about it.

The film focuses on Beatriz (played by Salma Hayek), a holistic practitioner in Los Angeles. Beatriz emigrated from Mexico a long time back. She has recently lost her pet goat, as her goat was murdered by a neighbor. She breaks down about this while giving a client, Kathy (played by Connie Britton), a massage before Kathy's dinner party involving a business venture. As Beatriz leaves, her car breaks down, so she must spend the night. Kathy's husband, Grant (played by David Warshofsky), initially objects, but reluctantly agrees.

The first group of guests arrive: Shannon (played by Chlöe Sevigny) & Alex (played by Jay Duplass).  Soon after, Doug Strutt (played by John Lithgow) & Jeana (played by Amy Landecker) arrive. It is revealed how Beatriz met Kathy & Grant: Beatriz helped Kathy & Grant's daughter, Tara, recover her strength after treatment for cancer.

Beatriz says that she knows Doug from somewhere, but she doesn't know where. The dinner is moderately peaceful, aside from a moment where Beatriz became agitated over his assumed involvement in a hotel construction in Mexico that ruined Beatriz's hometown.

But after dinner is where everything begins to unravel. As Doug mentions hunting in Africa, Beatriz becomes very angry. It is clear that their worlds will collide in a very huge way.

Salma Hayek & John Lithgow's powerful performances lead the way. They are the bedrock of this film, & ultimately, its saving grace.

Miguel Arteta's direction is solid, but underdeveloped. At some points, his intention feels unfocused.

Mike White's screenplay is solid as well. The script is great, but the narrative is a little short, & the pacing isn't good, as the film manages to make its 82-minute runtime feel almost 2 hours long.

This is certainly a film I've thought about a lot since I've seen it. It has a lot of great social commentary about casual racism, & even though the film falls short of its ultimate goal, it still provides enough ideas to make into an overall good satire.

Beatriz at Dinner was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, June 23, 2017. It is currently showing at 4 theaters in the Detroit area, including The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI & the United Artists Commerce Township Stadium 14 in Commerce Township, MI. Its runtime is 82 minutes, & it is rated R for language & a scene of violence.

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