The Invisible Wall

An immigrant and Republican meet at a party. Kaboom!

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Beatriz at Dinner
RPL Film Theatre

Oct. 13–15

Beatriz At Dinner is one of those films with a concept that’s better than its execution. It’s not the actors’ fault; rather, the creative team seems unwilling to make a statement that will leave a mark.  In a 2017 film about white privilege and immigration woes that’s ridiculous.

A terrific Salma Hayek is Beatriz, a good-hearted masseuse stranded at a client’s mansion on the eve of a dinner party. The host invites Beatriz — the single non-white person at the shindig — to dine with them, but the gesture backfires spectacularly when she meets Doug (John Lithgow), an embodiment of entitled affluence.

Never mind their first interaction involves Doug mistaking Beatriz for the help (I’ve been there). Doug is a Trump-esque figure surrounded by WASPy sycophants who believes the world exists for his amusement. Beatriz calls him on that frequently, but that only adds to his enjoyment.

Hayek and Lithgow play off each other, the former amping-up her earthiness, the latter going full-on mansplaining patriarch. The contrast between the two delivers the best moments of Beatriz at Dinner, even though the film doesn’t go as far it could (and should) have.

The movie is also good at dropping typical micro-aggressions immigrants must tolerate on daily basis: like asking someone “where are you really from,” for instance.

Then there’s the ending. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that of all the options, director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) goes with the worst one short of a UFO abducting and probing the entire cast. Blame scriptwriter Mike White, who is otherwise good at  articulating white privilege’s insidiousness,  even in those who denounce it (see Brad’s Status).

Here’s the one case the movie is better if you skip the last five minutes. ❧