From two filmmakers with a history of comedy-drama credits, director Miguel Arteta ("Cedar Rapids", "Youth in Revolt", "The Good Girl") and writer Mike White ("Orange County", "School of Rock", "Nacho Libre"), "Beatriz at Dinner" is an offbeat indie comedy starring Salma Hayek, Chloe Sevigny, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, and John Lithgow.
It's the kind of lesser known film you might find through the film festival circuit (had it's premiere at Sundance Film Festival) that's made up of a different brand of comedy or drama than your used to from a typical blockbuster, strong performances from B or C-list actors, and overall much to offer.
Beatriz (Hayek) is a massage therapist and spiritual practitioner who attends the nice California home of a client and friend like any other day. Once she finishes her massage, she realizes her car is dead and it will be sometime until her mechanic friend can arrive. As a result, Cathy (Britton) and Grant (David Warshofsky), her clients and the owners of the house, ask Beatriz to stay for the small dinner party they are having with Grant's boss and work associates.
Other than Beatriz' awkwardness and clearly being out of place, things go well in the beginning, but once she suspects she has a past connection with Grant's boss, Doug Strutt (Lithgow), she begins to grill him about his business until things become uncomfortable. As the dinner goes on, tensions continue to rise and the confrontations only get worse.
As far as acting goes, Hayek and Lithgow give the strongest performances of all. Some are saying this is one of the best roles of Hayek's career, which is saying a lot. I can't recall a time when Lithgow has disappointed and this is no different. The supporting cast of Sevigny, Britton, Duplass, Warshofsky, Amy Landecker, and John Early are nothing special yet adequate enough for this film.
Beatriz appears to have suffered much loss and seen a great deal of violence in her time, yet she is still a kind, positive person who believes in the power of healing and generally cares about people, animals, the environment, etc.. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Lithgow's Doug Strutt, a selfish and arrogant hotel tycoon who makes his money by crushing others. Suffice to say when Beatriz realizes who he is and what he stands for, she goes after him in a very moralistic way and causes a great deal of drama during the dinner party.
With a short running time and an R rating, this indie film offers a satisfying, yet different brand of entertainment than you might be used to from standard blockbusters. The social commentary is just edgy and hostile enough to keep you engaged without becoming too over the top or tedious. Other than the bad language, this may be a good watch for older audiences who are looking for strong dialogue and acting versus special effects and action. As a younger viewer however, I still found value in this film.
3 out of 5 stars.
"Beatriz at Dinner" is rated R for language and a scene of violence. Running time is 1 hour and 23 minutes. Opened in theaters on June 9th, 2017.