The Culture Movies

When sparks fly in 'Beatriz at Dinner,' it's entertaining but not surprising

Salma Hayek stars as a masseuse/holistic healer who clashes with a famously boorish billionaire (John Lithgow) during a dinner. Lithgow is so good at playing CEO oiliness that you have to smile.

Salma Hayek in 'Beatriz at Dinner'.
Courtesy of MPRM Communications
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  • Peter Rainer
    Film critic

The Beatriz of “Beatriz at Dinner” is a masseuse/healer played by Salma Hayek with more than a dollop of dolor. A middle-aged divorcée from Mexico living frugally in Los Angeles, where she works at a clinic for cancer patients, she is so protective of her menagerie of pets that she keeps a goat tethered in her bedroom at night. When her car breaks down while she is tending to a private client in a swanky mansion in Newport Beach, Calif., the lady of the house (Connie Britton), whose daughter Beatriz once expertly nursed, invites her to stay for dinner. The only problem: Headlining the guest list is Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a famously boorish billionaire whose extensive and heavily documented corporate malfeasances inevitably clash with Beatriz’s far-left politics.

Strutt (great name) starts out by mistaking Beatriz for a maid, and things go downhill from there. The movie itself, directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White, remains on a fairly even keel throughout, except for its cop-out magical realist ending, but the contretemps between Beatriz and Strutt is so inevitable that watching the sparks fly, while entertaining, is never surprising. Hayek gives one of her better performances, though – she makes it clear that Beatriz may be righteous, but she’s also more than a bit unhinged – and Lithgow is so good at playing CEO oiliness that you have to smile. He’s the man you love to hate. Grade: B- (Rated R for language and a scene of violence.)