Beatriz at Dinner
When I first saw the trailer for Beatriz at Dinner, I knew I was going to enjoy it. I thought Beatriz was going to give white privilege a comedic dose of its own medicine. I would laugh at the awkwardness of the situation and leave the movie with a smile on my face and an I-told-you-so satisfaction. Well, this was partially true. But the movie was more than just a comedic take on so much that is going on in the world. It forced me to think outside my own comfort zone and led me towards a perspective I wasn’t quite ready to face.
Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek (Fools Rush In, Frida), is an immigrant woman from Mexico who does holistic healing. She does massage therapy for patients with terminal illnesses as well as wealthy clients in the Los Angeles area. After her car breaks down at one of her wealthy client’s home, she accepts an invitation to attend her client’s dinner party, where the guest of honor is a wealthy real estate developer, who also happens to be her husband’s boss. The dinner is supposed to be a celebration of the completion of a high profile project.
It is at this dinner that she comes face to face with the shallow, egotistical, uncaring side of white privilege and wealth, but Beatriz refuses to back down from her experiences with it and constantly strives to get others to see things from her point of view. She is intelligent while still showing her naivete. This comes through during a scene early on in the evening in which the women she interacts with seem all too happy to continue gossiping and commenting on reality TV stars. Beatriz, not understanding why someone could possibly be gossiping about someone’s affliction, goes on to question the health of the celebrity and if she is okay. The women look her as if wondering why anyone would care that deeply. The reaction of the women is as if nothing else in the world is going on that could possibly affect them. This is a reflection of society today. Most people gloss over the fact that there are a lot of tragedies happening but tend not to notice until it affects them. This scene showed the awkwardness and stark contrast of Beatriz’ everyday life and beliefs against the privileged, which is what I loved most about the movie. It hit hard with social commentary and injustices while still poking fun at our ignorance. While I was laughing or feeling uncomfortable, I was being forced to think about what was being said.
The main tension of the evening is between Beatriz and Doug Strut, played by John Lithgow (Shrek, The Crown). Doug, the high profile real estate developer for whom the dinner is being held, is the type of person who will do anything as long as he profits from it. It is apparent early on that he doesn’t care about the people or environment his projects may harm, as long as he is able to move forward. Beatriz recognizes this, and throughout the dinner party, she does little to hide her disdain for him and his actions. Though he shows no remorse for his actions and seems to only entertain her for his own amusement, Beatriz still continues to try to get him to see how he is hurting people, animals, and the environment. Beatriz’ actions during the dinner aren’t always justifiable, and the women, for the most part, seemed to be conflicted. While they felt sorry for Beatriz for not fitting in and understanding their lifestyle and made an attempt to understand her, they still supported their husbands.
When the events of the movie finally came to a head, it was a very tense moment. I was left with knots in my stomach reeling from the events, yet still connected and rooting for Beatriz. I was left feeling sorry for the wives who had to endure the rants from both Beatriz and their husbands, at times seeming to be nothing but accessories in their boys’ club.
I was left pondering why Beatriz was so strong in her convictions and made the sacrifices she did in a world where people will fight for their own survival by any means necessary, even at the cost of others. The ending left me thinking about why Beatriz left things the way she did and I enjoyed that the meaning was left up to me to interpret. This is why I felt Beatriz at Dinner was a breath of fresh air.