We originally reviewed Beatriz at Dinner, at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2017. With the film opening in limited release this weekend, here’s the review again.
Have you ever seen a movie where a dream sequence teases a much more tantalizing story, only to say “just kidding” at the end and return the film to a much duller narrative? That’s true of Beatriz At Dinner, which sets up an interesting conflict but doesn’t do anything with it. Too timid to make any big story choices, it instead ends with a sort of magical realist copout, presumably in the hopes that we’ll apply our own metaphor. Aw, man, I didn’t realize this party was BYOM.
Directed by Miguel Arteta from a script by his frequent collaborator Mike White (past projects have included Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl), Beatriz seems to have all the tools for success. Salma Hayek plays Beatriz, an Earth mother Mexican immigrant who practices reiki, massage, and new age nutrition therapy for her clientele of rich Angelenos. Her car breaks down during a house call with Cathy (Connie Britton), who invites her to stay for dinner, even though it’s a business dinner for her husband, celebrating his partner, Alex (Jay Duplass) pushing through approval for a development deal with bigwig Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). Which means the Bill Brassky crew of SoCal industrialists clink scotch glasses over toasts to rapacious capitalism while Beatriz regales them with her loopy stories about finding her career calling in the eye of an abused octopus (a very funny story, incidentally).