New Film Examines Cultural Clashes in the Age of Trump

A working-class immigrant and a wealthy, unapologetic capitalist are both invited to a dinner party. As the wine flows and the night wears on, propriety breaks down and the two guests begin to clash over their opposing viewpoints. The hosts and fellow dinner guests look on in horror as the party escalates into a tense confrontation that challenges their deeply held stereotypes and forces them to consider how their privileged lifestyles affect the world around them. While this scenario may sound like an uncomfortable way to spend an evening in real life, it’s connecting with audiences as the plot of the new critically acclaimed film “Beatriz at Dinner.”

The dark comedy stars Salma Hayek as the titular Beatriz and John Lithgow as her nemesis, brash millionaire real estate developer Doug Strutt. Directed by Miguel Arteta, the film received a warm reception at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The plot of the film is set in motion when Beatriz, a Mexican immigrant who works as a massage therapist and faith healer in Los Angeles, is invited to stay for dinner at the home of a wealthy client after her car won’t start. The dinner, as Beatriz learns, is in fact a celebration of a real estate deal helmed by Strutt, who she soon comes to suspect is responsible for a failed resort that has financially devastated her hometown in Mexico. When Strutt begins to brag about hunting exotic game on an expensive safari trip, sensitive animal lover Beatriz loses her temper and verbally confronts him as well as her hosts about the global impact of their affluent lifestyles. [See Cultures and Values Clash in ‘Beatriz at Dinner,’ by L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star, 28.Jun.2017.]

The subject matter of “Beatriz at Dinner” is especially timely in the era of the Trump Administration, which has pushed for tightened immigration restrictions and promoted legislation criticized as hostile to poor and working class Americans. But Hayek is not shying away from controversy. As she explained in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “The movie takes this polarization and tries to create a communication, which right now we’re not really having. One of the things that scares me the most about what’s happening is my lack of understanding of the other side. …I also believe that sometimes when you are surrounded by only one mentality, it’s hard for you to see the other mentality. So, maybe if you step out and take a look beyond your environment, we can start understanding each other and have a conversation. I hope it starts this dialogue.” [See How ‘Beatriz at Dinner’ Pushes Salma Hayek to Try and Understand Trump’s America, by Ashley Lee, The Hollywood Reporter, 9.Jun.2017.]

 

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