Guess who’s coming to dinner. This is what is on everyone’s mind in the new offbeat dramedy Beatriz at Dinner, a quirky little film that not only presents an amusing premise but actually tackles some very timely issues. The film stars Salma Hayek in a role that seems tailor-made for the gorgeous actress and John Lithgow is in fine form here as he simply chews up the scenery. The film is smart, funny, full of terrific performances and really in a league of its own.
Beatriz at Dinner follows the titular character (played by Hayek), a natural healer / masseuse who has a strong connection to nature and animals. When her car breaks down at a wealthy client’s house, she is soon invited to stay for a small dinner party with rich snobs. The party is basically a less than subtle attempt to woo the host’s billionaire boss Doug Strutt (played by Lithgow), a macho mogul who immediately rubs Beatriz the wrong way due his pride in hunting defenseless creatures and an apparent disrespect for mother nature. Much of the film focuses on these two characters’ strong personalities and how they clash in many ways.
While Beatriz at Dinner is mainly about Hayek and Lithgow, the supporting cast is also really quite strong and I kind of wanted to see more of them. Connie Britton plays Beatriz’s well-to-do client who seems to genuinely want Beatriz as a friend. Her bloodsucking husband is played by gruff David Warshofsky and the other dinner guests include a young and ambitious couple comprised of Chloë Sevigny and Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker rounds out the cast as Strutt’s slightly ditsy trophy wife. All in all, it’s one of the better casts in recent dramedies and their chemistry with one another is really very special.
The luxurious house and dinner party are the main set for this unpredictable adventure in social conflict. Lithgow’s Doug Strutt is the atypical older white rich man, a less than subtle mirrored image to our current commander-in-chief. This has got to be one of Lithgow’s finest performances since you can totally believe him to be this arrogant, harsh, and at times, unlikable person. Beatriz challenges him in many scenes and the results are really fun to watch.
Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl) has conjured up a fantastic script here with each actor turning White’s words into pure gold. One can even imagine Beatriz at Dinner as a staged play since it features a small cast and one primary “stage”. The tension is palpable in many scenes but a unique brand of humor keeps things light and somewhat cheery. Fans of Donald Trump will probably get a little offended by this film and Lithgow’s role and his unofficial representation of the Republican party. Beatriz at Dinner pokes fun here and it is because of this, the film is really entertaining. It’s not an in your face satire of rich white people but it gets its point across. Salma Hayek portrays a minority here and her challenging of a “superior” race and social class is what makes this film shine very brightly.