Beatriz At Dinner

Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, David Warshofsky, Chloe Sevigny, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker
Directed By: Miguel Arteta

Plot: Beatriz (Hayek) is a healer, who does everything from massages to chakra, and specializes in helping cancer victims feel better. She’s at the house of one of her non-cancer patients (Britton) when her car breaks down, and is invited to stay for dinner… which is actually her husband’s (Warshofsky) business dinner featuring a very high profile client (Lithgow), that Beatriz may or may not already know.

What Works: I’ve seen a lot of people approach this film with that “Oh, don’t spoil it!” attitude. Look, there’s nothing to spoil here. This movie is super short, at 1:15 (before credits). There’s no twist ending here. I don’t know why it’s shrouded in secret. The best thing about this film is Hayek, who is often given very little to do except just sit and breathe in the moment. She makes entire scenes feel full simply by existing, even though nothing is actually happening. On the opposite end, John Lithgow is good, and never has to sit in silence. He lets his words carry his weight, and they carry him well.

What Doesn’t Work: A 78% on Rotten Tomatoes? Really? I mean, I guess critics are lazy. For me, this film has pacing issues, in that nothing really happens. Maybe that’s the point? Maybe it’s a slice of life film with no actual plot or story. But at least it could have had characters. In a movie like this, where you have so few people actually on screen at any given moment, it’s important to at least know who these people are. No one is really well developed. We know a little more about Hayek and Lithgow’s characters, but we know almost nothing about Sevigny or Duplass. They’re in most of the film, which makes it frustrating that I don’t know anything about these “space fillers”. They seem so artificial, like an earlier draft of the film had only 5 people at dinner, and someone said… this feels wrong, we’ll add two more, but forgot to actually flesh out who these people are. The man (Duplass) has kidney stones and is a lawyer, but I know nothing about Sevigny’s character, or what she wants. The same could be said for Landecker, who plays Lithgow’s wife. She’s shockingly underdeveloeped as well. Britton has some character development, but her husbnad (Warshofsky) has none. I almost would have appreciated a longer film, that allowed for its characters to breathe, than a shorter film that seems pointless and filled with characters I don’t care about. This film ends up feeling impossibly long because it’s filled with so many quite moments of Hayek just existing on camera, which could have been substituted for backstory on any of the main characters, including Beatriz.

Final Word: I wish I could recommend this film, because it shows how Hayek can do so much with so little, and how Lithgow really is one of the greatest living actors. Aside from that, there’s nothing interesting about this film, which is a shame because Arteta (Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl) is a decent director. Unfortunately, this feels like a first draft, instead of a final draft, and Mike White forgot that his characters needed purpose.

Final Grade: C-

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