Sundance Review: 'Beatriz at Dinner' The Awkward Dinner Party

Remember that awkward party where you just didn’t fit in?

If you answered “no,” maybe you need to get out more.

If you answered “yes,” you can relate to Beatriz.

Director Miguel Arteta’s Beatriz at Dinner takes a unique approach to the dinner party from hell, with Beatriz (Salma Hayek), an immigrant, animal lover and holistic healer, dining with a group of well-to-dos, who are celebrating a successful business deal that stands to rake in, we presume, even more lavish parties.

Salma Hayek, Connie Britton and Chloë Sevigny in Beatriz at Dinner, photo by Lacey Terrell, courtesy of Sundance Institute

The film is equally a drama and dark comedy, bringing up questions about privilege, exploitation and the feelings of the white octopi. It’s also a battle between ideologies: exploiting the world vs. healing it.

We get to know Beatriz at her home, where she cares for her dogs and goat, and at work, where she provides clients with massages, teaches breathing exercises and provides therapy via Tibetan singing bowls. Her last client for the day, Cathy (Connie Britton), lives in a far-off gated Newport Beach community, so Beatriz hops in her Volkswagen to unenthusiastically join traffic and drive past refineries on her way to Cathy’s. After Cathy’s massage, Beatriz’s car won’t start for the trip home. Cathy, who sees Beatriz as a miracle worker for treating her daughter who had cancer, invites her to stay for dinner. At first, the dinner comes off as typical fish-out-of-water comedy, but things get serious when Beatriz questions brazen billionaire Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) about how he earns his wealth.

The tension between Beatriz and Doug grows, with Beatriz as our champion, fending off Doug and those who are just there to kiss his ass.

We learn more about Doug’s unethical business practices and Beatriz’s personal struggles, including her hometown in Mexico being exploited by someone just like Doug. You won’t want to miss the last half hour of this film, which will be the topic of your own dinner conversations for the rest of the week.

Recently, Roadside Attractions and FilmNation acquired North American rights to the film. So, if you missed it at Sundance, you’ll still get your chance.

Upcoming screenings:

Saturday, Jan. 28, 11:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City

written by: Jaime Winston
written by: Jaime Winston
Salt Lake Magazine
Salt Lake Magazine
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