review: “beatriz at dinner”

I couldn’t help thinking about “Get Out” while I was watching “Beatriz at Dinner.” Both are slightly fantastical movies about the insidious violence of rich, white people’s racism, filled with microaggressions and dream sequences. While “Get Out” is a full-blown horror movie, though, “Beatriz at Dinner” is something different. It could be categorized as a cringe comedy; the overwhelming feelings I had while watching it were stress and anxiety. However, while most cringe comedies skewer a few characters for obliviously violating social norms, this one targets not only individual characters but entire systems of violence.  It also critiques a particular segment of likely viewers: wealthy or upper-middle class liberals. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call this a cringe dramedy, given the solemn underlying tone of the film.

The film, directed by Michael Arteta and written by Mike White, is about a woman, Beatriz (Salma Hayek), who emigrated to California from Mexico as a child and who is now a healer, dealing in massage, sound therapy, reiki, and more.  She is a deeply compassionate person; we see this before we know her occupation, when we first meet her as she is awakened by her distressed goat who is bleating loudly from a pen in her bedroom. She climbs into the small pen and holds the goat close to her body, making soothing noises. She is also spiritual: she has both Buddha and the Virgin Mary in her car, and she starts her day by meditating on loved ones she has lost. The rest of her day is spent tending to other people’s pain at a clinic for people with cancer. Continue reading review: “beatriz at dinner”

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