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Beatriz At Dinner

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Joined: 30 Apr 2005
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Location: L.A., California

PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:58 pm    Post subject: Beatriz At Dinner Reply with quote




'Beatriz At Dinner' Skewers A House Full Of Well-Off Guests
Ella Taylor
June 8, 2017

Every so often, brightly lit Hollywood comedies set in West Coast mansions
will slip in five minutes of light-relief banter between a Latina
housekeeper and her wealthy white liberal boss. Mild joshing ensues about
the cluelessness or prejudice of the employer, perhaps with a good-natured
roll of the maid's eyes thrown in. That done, everyone slips back into
their assigned slots in the social pecking order. Point taken, but not

Beatriz at Dinner, a new collaboration between director Miguel Arteta and
screenwriter Mike White (The Good Girl, Chuck & Buck, among others), is
not that banter or that movie. The Mexican-born Beatriz, played with
restraint by a deglamorized and slyly tamped down Salma Hayek, is not a
housekeeper. She's a healer with her own business and a gentle, spiritual
soul. An apparent ingnue in sensible jeans and adolescent bangs, Beatriz
keeps goats in her Altadena apartment and wonders why the neighbors
complain. She's funny and anachronistic in context, but she's not being
laughed at, at least not by the filmmakers, who bring Beatriz front and
center in a black comedy of manners with an earnest undertow that places
ethnic and class inequality on an audacious continuum with wanton
environmental destruction.

Invited to dinner when her car breaks down at the Newport Beach McMansion
of her client, Kathy (a very good Connie Britton), Beatriz takes it on
trust when Kathy introduces her as "my dearest friend" to a small group of
well-heeled guests assembled to celebrate a commercial takeover of
protected land they're about to turn into millions in hard cash. Despite
barely suppressed sneering from the visitors, played by Chloe Sevigny
along with Transparent's Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass and John Lithgow,
Beatriz and Kathy begin the evening believing in their friendship. The
train wreck that follows hilarious with a growing edge of sinister will
strip away everyone's illusions on that score, and a few others.

With hardly a raised voice, the air soon fills with poison. Arteta directs
with irreverent brio mixed with a somber touch, but Beatriz at Dinner is
(almost) all talk, and dependent on the crisply funny dialogue that keeps
taking left turns into the unexpected. White is always on the side of the
marginal and the dispossessed, but he likes to throw us off our game a bit
so we don't just go home smugly confident that we've done our bit for
justice and empathy. Beatriz, like the others, walks a purposefully
confounding line between naturalism and caricature. She hugs everyone on
sight, offers free treatments all around, and asks Kathy's incredulous
husband to bring her a glass of wine. But though she's getting drunker by
the minute, Beatriz is also an astute observer whose reflexive desire to
please wanes visibly as she mixes it up with the wonderfully named Doug
Strutt, a cocksure, Trump-like developer played with delicious glee by
Lithgow, whom she thinks she recognizes from her childhood in Mexico, when
her family, community, and habitat were destroyed by a corporate predator.

War is declared, and Doug and Beatriz perform a rivetingly complicated pas
de deux that pitches his boorish charm against the coiled ferocity that
grows within the unwanted guest. Is Doug, who knows what he is and is
frank about fiddling while Rome burns, the enemy here? Perhaps, but the
target at the bullseye's center is the liberal elite itself, nice enough
self-deceivers like Kathy who commit daily hypocrisies while persuading
themselves they've conquered prejudice, yet who flee in terror when
confronted with contradiction and pushback. It's Kathy's abrupt withdrawal
from her "friend" and her panicked attempt to revert to patroness that
really cuts, and carries the action from wicked comedy into potent
melodrama. In the movie's several startling endings you may see a horror
story or a Greek tragedy unfolding. Beatriz at Dinner is also a love story
that restores agency to a woman who has lost all, and asks us to take a
hard look at our own.
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