By Laurie Coker
It makes no sense that in Hollywood, the music industry, and even in general, suicide is seen as heroic. There is nothing honorable about taking one’s life. Perhaps this is a soapbox for another day. In Beatriz at Dinner, Salma Hayek, plays the titular character, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, who has become a hyper-empathic, holistic healer. Beatriz does the unthinkable after an encounter with the reality of capitalism and indifference. Making matters worse, the film’s dinner plays out with such sluggishness that one wonders continually if it will ever end.
When Beatriz’s battered car breaks down after a treatment, her client, Cathy (Connie Britton) invites her to stay for dinner. The dinner, however, is far from ordinary and Beatriz finds herself face to face with her idea of evil – businessman Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) a man who made billions by climbing the ladder on the backs of others. After a few too many glasses of wine, Beatriz confronts Strutt in defense of the masses – in particular, those in her home village who lost everything when a man like Strutt bought up land and pushed her people out to erect a high-rise resort hotel. The earth-loving Beatriz turns defensively obstinate to an audience of wealthy entrepreneurs.
Cathy “loves” Beatriz – crediting Beatriz for saving her daughter from cancer with her hands and compassion. This offers the explanation of why she invites her to stay for an event celebrating capitalism. Strutt, played with uncanny ease by Lithgow, embodies everything Beatriz appears to hate and we are meant to see the satire in writer Mike White’s story. Even after being dismissed several times, Beatriz returns to go toe-to-toe with the mogul. Frankly, little is interesting or new about the encounters and while Lithgow and Hayek are flawless, the storyline is dull and monotonal.
Transparent storytelling and efforts to demonstrate civil disaccord fail to impress even in light of Hayek’s raw and impassioned performance. Others in the film are merely adornments to the pairing of Lithgow (the rich) and Hayek (the impoverished) and the final scene is disturbingly inappropriate. Beatriz at Dinner earns a D+ in the grade book. We need to stop idolizing those who choose ONE, selfish solution to an inability to rise up to adversity.