“Dinner with Beatriz” hit the box office in June with distribution limited to artsy theaters in the big cities. With the streaming option imminent, this quiet, at times disturbing, film deserves a screening from your easy chair. This is one of those films that you’ll think about long after the closing credits roll.
Selma Hayek develops the lead as the gentle Beatriz the way a flower blooms: slowly and with grace. In what could be described as one of her best characters ever, Hayek pulls from some deep, inner resources to portray this complex woman whose inner strength knows no bounds.
Although Beatriz’s action dominates the main emphasis of the plot, this is essentially a film about a dinner party with an ensemble of characters, each of whom has a story that will unfold.
Beatriz qualifies as a fish out of water in this crowd. She arrives at the mansion of Grant
(David Warshofsky) and Kathy (Connie Britton) in her dilapidated jalopy to give Kathy her weekly massage. As an individual and her masseuse are wont to do, Kathy and Beatriz have become close over the last few months, especially since Beatriz has a meaningful connection to Kathy’s daughter when she was battling cancer. Beatriz qualifies as a culendera, and her healing touch works miracles.
Kathy’s in something of a hurry to finish her business with Beatriz because she and Grant expect guests within the hour for an important dinner party. As fate would have it, Beatriz’s car won’t start, and she faces the fact that she’s suddenly stranded at a very inopportune time.
Of course, Kathy invites Beatriz to stay for dinner. Although Grant thinks the idea strange, he acquiesces since Kathy reminds him how lovingly the gentle Beatriz treated their daughter.
The guests arrive: Two couples all in a flurry, bejeweled and well-heeled. Commanding immediate attention, Doug (John Lithgow) mistakes Beatriz for a servant and asks for a drink. She sets him straight as his wife Jeana (Amy Landecker) apologizes and makes excuses for his rudeness.
As humans go, Doug qualifies as a terrible person. His boorishness has been earned as he earned his wealth. Always ready for the main chance, Doug thinks nothing of ruining entire communities for profit, of raping the land, of killing things.
The sensitive Beatriz sees him for the man he is, and she is horrified.
The second, younger couple Alex (Jay Duplass) and Shannon (Chloe Sevigny) have all the attributes of up-and-comers out to impress Doug. Beatriz’s outrage festers as everyone but her ignores Doug’s inhumanity.
Action will escalate, and tides will turn. Stay with it, and know that the sensitive soul sometimes has the last word, even though by all measure, the world is too much with her.
Rated R for language and a scene of violence.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews since 1999.