Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Movie Review: "Beatriz at Dinner" (2017)

Director: Miguel Arteta
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

A massage therapist and holistic healer named Beatriz has just finished working at a client's house when her car breaks down in their driveway. She is asked to stay for dinner, but the evening gets awkward when it turns out Beatriz and the rest of the guests have very different values and views.

"Beatriz at Dinner" is directed by Miguel Arteta, who is known for movies like "The Good Girl," "Youth in Revolt," and "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." It is written by Mike White, who is best known for writing "School of Rock" and "Nacho Libre." It stars Salma Hayek as the titular Beatriz, a woman who has worked her way up in the world after coming to America from Mexico. She is a massage therapist and holistic healer who works at a local cancer care facility. When Beatriz goes to the home of a wealthy client for a massage appointment, her beat-up old hunk-a-junk car breaks down. Luckily, her client Cathy, played by Connie Britton, considers her a friend and asks her to stay for dinner. Beatriz, however, doesn't exactly fit in with all of Cathy's husband's business associates.

This film is all about cultures clashing with one another at the worst opportune time. On one hand, you have the lower middle-class Mexican-American immigrant who is into nature, healing, and is all about caring for other people, animals, and the planet. The dinner guests, however, are business-minded, money-oriented real estate developers who care about cash above all else and only consider themselves and their own happiness. Much of "Beatriz at Dinner" is spent in the thick of uncomfortable and awkward conversations as these guests try to ignore Beatriz and her "out their" views and stories. Beatriz has no problem speaking her mind, which is often in the direct conflict with the other guests, who easily and gladly talk about the piece of land they are about to plow regardless of the animals or humans that reside there. These moments can be funny on occasion, but in a secondhand embarrassment sort of way. There is definitely a political message as strong parallels run between these characters and a few socially relevant real life individuals, namely the man occupying the White House. The message is not exactly delivered in a nuanced or subtle way as Arteta and White directly thumb their noses in Trump's face by describing his entire family within these characters almost to the tee. The movie is essentially a stump speech.

Salma Hayek gives an stupendous performance as Beatriz, and we really believe her in the part. She does well as the voice of reason amongst a group of people who would normally never give her the time of day but are forced to hear what they think are crazy, hippie-dippy ideals. John Lithgow also gives fantastic performance as well. He is the primary antagonist and is the prime source of conflict with Beatriz. They have some fiery exchanges, and Lithgow proves to be one of this year's best adversaries.

There is some really good stuff within the heavy-handed "Beatriz at Dinner." It's obviously a very personal story for director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White, but when it's all said and done, it wound up being just an alright experience for us, especially considering the ending feels like a massive cop-out. We were fine up until then, but the ambiguous, unnecessary ending is where it loses us in a big way. This movie will only be appropriate for a certain group of people as it is essentially a gigantic f-you to people who have money, or make lots of money, and those who are more conservative-learning moviegoers probably won't enjoy this picture.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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