Review: In 'Beatriz at Dinner' Salma Hayek Battles Trump's America

On Wednesday night I attended a screening of Miguel Arteta's soon-to-be released film Beatriz at Dinner and it blew me away.

A collaboration between Arteta and writer Mike White, who previously worked together on dramatic comedies Chuck and Buck (2000) and The Good Girl (2002) (which starred Jennifer Aniston), Beatriz at Dinner is possibly the most of-the-time film I've ever seen.

Salma Hayek stars as the titular Beatriz, a holistic medicine healer, and massage therapist who uses Eastern medicines like reiki and sound baths to treat patients at an Altadena, California cancer clinic, and rich private clients at their homes. Right from the start, we can see that Beatriz lives a quiet, melancholy life, living in a one bedroom apartment with two dogs and a goat.

Hayek plays Beatriz with a quiet earnestness. Though she doesn't say much at the start of the film, Hayek's soulful eyes portray both a sense of understanding of the world and a complete disregard for irony at the same time.

Beatriz is a character with no sense of humor to speak of. Who sees the world the only way she knows how yet is in unable to see how others might be perceiving her.

Beatriz travels to Newport Beach, CA, in her puttering Volkswagen, for a massage appointment with Cathy (played perfectly by Connie Britton), a rich Real Housewife of Orange County type whom Beatriz formed a connection with after helping to treat her teenage daughter when she had Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Cathy calls Beatriz "a dear friend" and a "friend of the family" and it seems she means it. But, it's clear to the audience that Cathy is the employer and Beatriz is the help.

When Beatriz's car breaks down as she's trying to leave, Cathy invites her to stay for dinner. In fact, she insists upon it. Even though her husband Grant (David Warshofsky), a real estate developer, is having important business associates over and can't afford for anything to go wrong.

As the guests, played by Chloë Sevigny, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, and John Lithgow, begin to arrive, you immediately know what you're in for as Beatriz ignores their offered hands and goes in for a warm hug.

She has absolutely nothing in common with these rich, Orange County people and though they are polite to her face, Beatriz's interjections about past lives and holistic medicine are being met with mocking glances behind her back.

Beatriz is about deep, meaningful connections, while the other guests are there for the light, slightly vapid chit-chat one has at a dinner party. I know that were I at this dinner party, I would be a little annoyed by Beatriz and her inability to read a room.

That is until we get to know Lithgow's character Doug Strutt over dinner.

Doug Strutt is a billionaire real estate baron with little care for the environment or laborers so long as he gets richer, who calls Beatriz "honey", and asks where she's really from when she tells him she's from Altadena.

Sound familiar?

Lithgow's Trumpian character and the humanity with which he plays him is what makes the Beatriz at Dinner feel so of-the-now.

Through Lithgow, Doug's wry, brash, yet polite interactions with Beatriz's earnest liberalism, manage not to appear cartoonish. Even as the things he's talking about begin to get more and more horrible.

It becomes clear that Beatriz wants to save the world while Doug figures that if the world is dying anyway, he may as well profit. They are complete polar opposites and when the other begins to question their strongly held ideals even Beatriz, the poster child for calm, can't help but explode.

The cast does an amazing job of maintaining the sheer ridiculous comedic nature of these two people with nothing in common at all sparring by leaning into the awkward pauses and side-eyed glances.

To anyone who has recently sat listening to a Democrat and a Republican discuss politics, their forced politeness will be hilarious in its realness.

Beatriz at Dinner is at its core a story about what happens when ideals go up against opportunity, and though as the film goes on the story gets darker and darker, until it's extremely mysterious ending, I left the theater feeling like I'd learned something about both sides of the coin.

Beatriz at Dinner hits theaters on June 9, 2017.