Saturday, June 24, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review


Beatriz at Dinner [2017] (directed by Miguel Arteta, screenplay by Mike White) is a darkish dramedy that reminds us that art can sometimes precede (predict?) the future: A sort of (now) Trump-era Guess Who's Coming to Dinner [1967], the film was actually made before Donald Trump was elected U.S. President (or before just about anyone, including possibly Trump himself, thought it possible that he could win).

Beatriz (played to self-evidently Oscar nomination worthy levels by Salma Hayek) is a non-descript Mexican-born, long-time American residing (a slightly older "dreamer"?) "healer" (in Spanish "curandera") working mostly as a massage therapist at a Santa Monica based "Alternative Medicine Center" who a quite rich Newport Beach residing couple Grant and Shannon (played by David Warshofsky and Chloƫ Sevigny respectively) met some years earlier when their teenage daughter had been having a tough time with undergoing standard cancer (chemotherapy / radiation) treatments.

Beatriz had helped their daughter get through the treatments, and subsequently Shannon had been having Beatriz come regularly to their quite lovely "cliff-side ocean view" home out there in _Southern_ Orange County to give her a monthly massage.  Insane amount of driving that this "triangle" -- from her modest home in Altadena to her work in Santa Monica to Shannon's gated community (of course) home in Newport Beach and back to Altadena (the geography here is both important and insane)-- notwithstanding, Beatriz, a seemingly quite gentle, somewhat "New Agey" soul appeared content to do this for the sake of her past relationship with Grant / Shannon and their daughter and because, well, she truly saw her vocation to be "a healer."

Well, one afternoon, after giving Shannon her massage, Beatriz' car finally "dies" (could not start) from all that driving.  No matter, Shannon invites her to stay the night in her previously sick daughter's room (she's long since "better" and now in college) and invites Beatriz to stay for a dinner party that they were hosting for one of Grant's clients, a _big shot real estate developer_ named Doug Strutt (played wonderfully by John Lithgow).  The two -- Beatriz and Strutt -- could not possibly have been more different and on so many levels (race, gender, class, fundamental outlook on the very purpose of life), and after a couple of glasses of wine ("liquid courage"), it's _Beatriz_ who in good part _decides_ that she's _not_ going to keep her mouth shut.

A fascinating if increasingly _painful_ film to watch.  Could _this film_ become this year's  Moonlight [2016] (89th Academy Awards [2107])?


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