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Salma Hayek plays Beatriz in Beatriz at Dinner, Mike White’s black comedy of social positions. (Lacey Terrell/Globe and Mail Update)
Salma Hayek plays Beatriz in Beatriz at Dinner, Mike White’s black comedy of social positions. (Lacey Terrell/Globe and Mail Update)

Review: Beatriz at Dinner is a subtle meditation on the struggle for human connection Add to ...

  • Directed by Miguel Arteta
  • Written by Mike White
  • Starring Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Chloë Sevigny
  • Classification 14A
  • Country USA
  • Language English

Mike White’s black comedy of social positions certainly takes the time to give its big ideas their due, but Beatriz at Dinner works well beyond both lecture or lesson because of the care and attention everyone has put into the people that play them out.

White and director Miguel Arteta – who spends almost as much time turning his camera to awkward silences as pointedly obtuse lines – are perfectly attuned to the awkward absurdity of people who are trying hard to resist thinking about much of anything other than how nice the meal is, in such a nice house.

This subtle buzz of consumerist cluelessness is played again and again off the polar opposites at the centre of the story, disarmingly direct healer Beatriz (Salma Hayek) and proudly exploitative developer Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). In those two, the film finds perfect spikes to ground themselves to: Both actors turn in performances that plunge deep into their characters’ iron psyches.

They make the interplay less a clash of world views than two proud people flailing at the darkness in front of them, no more capable of understanding their opposite than seeing their own flaws. It gives their conflict a surprising tenderness – the eternal gulf of human connection – constantly prodded and poked at by the grinning, willful ignorance of everyone around them.

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