Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Beatriz" brings ideas and suspense to this dinner

I've never associated Salma Hayek with a serious actress capable of complex emotions.  After all, for most of 1990s, she was Robert Rodriguez's main action movie vixen-slash-heroine-muse, and not since 2002's Frida has she appeared in a seriously dramatic starring role.  But in Beatriz at Dinner, Hayek plays the titular Mexican physical therapist (mourning her recently murdered goat) living in present day Los Angeles, who drives to homes of fancy clients by the edge of the sea, and after her car breaks down, she is invited by the hostess (Connie Britton) and her husband (David Warshofsky) to join them and their big-shot guests for dinner.  Among the guests are the wealthy businessman Doug Strutt (John Lithgow, doing his best rich-prick-who-doesn't-give-a-fuck-about-anything-but-money, a role that Michael Douglas once owned).  The ensuing banter between the middle classed Beatriz and the morally corrupt Strutt is the kind of stuff that would make David Mamet proud.

Hayek and Lithgow, playing characters who stand on completely opposite ends of complex ethical spectrum, have more than a few great exchanges, and despite her fame and (once-upon-a-time) sexiness, Hayek is very believable as an upstanding healer of all things living who naturally can't fathom how any person, even a wealthy asshole like Strutt, can ever boast about killing a rhinoceros on an African safari.  Beatriz at Dinner brings some interesting points about the intricacy of the modern condition, but its convoluted ending is a perplexing thing indeed, and had it settled instead for a more extreme conclusion (Beatriz fantasizes about doing something horrible near the end but decides not to go through with it; such a shame), instead of copping out for a less than memorable ending, it may have resonated with its audience even deeper.

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