BEATRIZ AT DINNER — Review by Susan Granger

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It’s always a shame when superb performances get mired down in melodrama – like serving a tantalizing appetizer with an indigestible meal. Altruistic holistic healer Beatriz (Salma Hayek), a middle-aged Mexican-born divorcee, is having a rough time. Her Los Angeles neighbor objects to the incessant bleating of her pet goat, and her old Volkswagen barely starts when she turns the ignition. Continue reading…

Nevertheless, Beatriz wears a perpetually beatific expression as she heads off down the coastline from the cancer clinic where she works to an exclusive Newport Beach enclave to give a massage to Cathy (Connie Britton), a wealthy client whose teenage daughter Beatriz helped recover from chemotherapy.

Not surprisingly, Beatriz’s car breaks down in the driveway. So Cathy convinces her husband Grant (David Warshofsky), a contractor, to graciously include Beatriz as a “friend-of-the-family” guest at a small dinner party they’re hosting for Grant’s boss, Douglas Strutt (John Lithgow), a billionaire real estate tycoon who owns hotels and golf courses around the world.

Pompous Strutt arrives with his third, much younger wife Jeana (Amy Landecker), along with Grant’s junior colleague Alex (Jay Duplass) and his social climbing wife Shannon (Chloe Sevigny).

After first mistaking sanctimonious Beatriz for a maid, Strutt further infuriates her by showing off iPhone photos of his latest ‘trophy’ hunt in Africa – in boastful poses that are reminiscent of Eric and Donald Trump Jr.’s gloating over their ‘big game’ killings.

Heavy-handedly written by Mike White and directed by Miguel Arteta – previous collaborators on “Chuck & Buck” and “The Good Girl” – it’s a predictable parable about the entitled ‘haves’ and long-suffering ‘have-nots,’ forced by circumstance into a social interaction in which there’s a presumed intimacy with an employee.

While waiting for the inevitable confrontation between passive-aggressive Beatriz, burning with righteous indignation and imbibing far too much wine, and vulgar, capitalistic Strutt, the concept collapses. White and Areta clearly cop out by inserting incoherent magical realism that never rings true.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Beatriz at Diner” is a deeply flawed 5 – and ultimately frustrating.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.