Beatriz At Dinner
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Beatriz (Salma Hayek), an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a spiritual health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire real estate developer. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.
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Couple of comments: this is the third time that director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White have teamed up, after the excellent "Chuck & Buck (in 2000) and "The Good Girl" (in 2002). Here they decide to go a very different rout, and serve up a social commentary on life of the rich and famous. Beatriz, a down to earth alternative medicine healer of Mexican descent, stands out like a sore thumb in a small gathering of white rich business men and their spouses, and hence tension ensues. I'm sure that there are people in real life like the John Lithgow character, a rude, self-absorbed, insensitive, sexist and racist pig, but if the movie makers think that this is a representative reflection of rich, white males, then I disagree. I had seen the trailer for the movie, and was expecting something amazing. Instead, what we have here is a movie which has an interesting premise, and doesn't know how to flesh it out, and then simply runs out of steam (and plot) after a mere 1 hr. and 15 min. Sorry, that doesn't cut it for me. This movie feels like a missed opportunity. Salma Hayek (in the role of Beatriz) makes the best of the situation, but that's not saying all that much much.
The movie opened this weekend on 2 screens for all of Greater Cincinnati. The Saturday matinée where I saw this at was attended poorly (3 people, including myself). Now having seen the film, I don't see a long life for this movie in the theaters: it's too dark, and too obvious, but worst of all, the movie is not fully fleshed out.
The ideas are worthwhile and it intends to say something substantive that would enlighten the viewer and provoke thought. It misses that mark.
It looks good--nicely shot, good production design, competently directed. The actors are excellent. Beatriz doesn't feel like a real character, though. She's a representation of a perspective that the world needs more of. On top of that, the other characters are so completely wrapped up in their wealthy lifestyles that there's not enough complexity in the examination of the ideas. Beatriz doesn't get through to them, partly because she's so aggressively passionate that they find her more kooky and amusing than someone whose ideas should be considered. They dismiss her.
Beatriz is the righteous one and the rest of them are all contributors to the problem that's ruining the planet, either directly by causing devastation, or indirectly by benefitting from the destruction and not doing anything to stop it. The impact might have been greater if Beatriz had acknowledged how she, too, benefits from money and greed, though she doesn't intend to. (Her wealthy clients do pay her and she's willing to take their money.) And if she realized that some wealthy people who do awful things can simultaneously contribute to society in a way that benefits others. (Jobs; advancements in technology, etc.) What's happening in the world has become more complicated than good vs. evil. I think what the filmmakers were trying to say is that the planet IS dying and really we're all contributing to that, so there's no hope. Some people are going to enjoy it as it goes down (articulated by John Lithgow's character). And others are going to be in agony about it (Beatriz). Sadly, Beatriz's way of coping with this realization leaves the viewer feeling confused and unsatisfied in the end. This might just be a case of the wrong story at the wrong time. As a viewer in 2017, where global warming and the threat of nuclear war are making many of us feel doom is inevitable, seeing a film that seems to say, yeah, the end IS coming is not entertaining or satisfying. If we're to remain on the planet, we need hope. And hope exists. Recently there was a story about a deforested area wherein tons of orange peels were dumped a decade ago. They revisited the deforested spot a decade later and it was completely filled in with trees. If this kind of composting can be done in deforested areas around the planet, that restoration will help the atmosphere. I wish Beatriz had known about this and other glimmers of hope and brought that with her to dinner.
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Amazing movie about the most important simple things that been totally forgotten in the cruel 2018 World.