Beatriz at Dinner was written by Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta for Salma Hayek. How often do you hear of a Hollywood film being written specifically for a Latina actress, and a 50 year old at that! Dubbed as a “film for the Trump era” after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Salma’s performance has been lauded by reviewers, and based on Salma’s name, audience anticipation is palpable.
Not a big budget film, Beatriz at Dinner will need to rely on reviews and word of mouth. The reviews have praised White’s writing and Arteta’s direction and in particular have lauded Salma’s performance as one of her best performances to date. But Latinos lit up social media for Salma’s latest film. That is a good thing because Latinos make up 23% of all movie goers, and have a film attendance of 4.6 times a year, making Latinos the most frequent movie goers of any ethnic group. If every single Latino who posted on social media bought a ticket to Beatriz at Dinner, they can make the film a box office hit.
As we meet Beatriz, (Salma) she is lovingly tending to her pets in her bedroom. As we look around the bedroom we sense that Beatriz is a simple, spiritual, and ethereal being, who loves her animals but is deeply troubled that a neighbor has killed her pet goat. Beatriz drives off in her beat up VW to her work at the Arendale Cancer Center, where she treats cancer patients with her healing skills as a masseuse and Reiki healer. She also makes house calls and on this day she drives out to Newport Beach to see one of her clients, Cathy, a wealthy housewife (Connie Britton) who is fitting in a massage before hosting a celebratory dinner for her husband and his business partner Doug Strutt (John Lithgow).
Beatriz is invited to dinner when her car breaks down and well meaning Cathy convinces her husband (David Warshofsky) that there is no harm in having Beatriz join the dinner party while she waits for her friend to come and pick her up. Cathy trusts and loves Beatriz, as she helped her daughter get through her bout with cancer and she is forever grateful. The dinner party is set.
An immigrant from Mexico, Beatriz is not intimidated to be at the table among the very rich anglo guests. But when Strutt begins to throw his veiled digs (increasingly becoming less veiled), across the dinner table, she has the manners and wisdom to not respond in-kind. As she learns more about Strutt’s work of decimating communities (as she looks at it) and his hunting of animals, well all bets are off. Just because she did not impose her point of view on the discussion at the dinner table, did not mean she didn’t have one. And when the time is right she speaks out without a thought to the seemingly “inappropriateness” of her outburst, leading her friend/host Cathy to remark to Beatriz “I kind of feel like I don’t even know you,” to which Beatriz responds “You don’t know me.”t
For Salma this is not just a role of a lifetime, it’s personal. “It’s been one of the best things I have ever done,” she said in an interview on The Build Series. She publicly thanked White and Arteta for the role saying, “I felt so lucky and very moved because… I really felt they really saw me…in the way he directed [Arteta] and the way he wrote it [White]… They really saw inside of me.” She added, “Whereas a lot of the parts I play it’s people who look but not really see,” most likely talking about the roles that she has done that are primarily based on her looks.
Beatriz at Dinner also tackles issues like immigration, which are very close to her heart. However, for Salma fans that are looking to see her in full makeup looking sexy, you will see Salma’s extraordinary natural beauty in this film. You will see a beautifully executed nuanced performance that subtly addresses issues that resonate in this Trump era. Issues that compel Beatriz to no longer stay silent but to speak up, as at times we all wish we had the guts to do. It is about a character who cares about the world we live in and the beings that we share it with. It is about caring and the price Beatriz is willing to pay to not become one of the indifferent and uncaring. It is most assuredly, an Oscar-worthy performance.