The opening film of this year’s Sundance London film festival is Miguel Arteta’s dark comedy Beatriz at Dinner. Arteta seats Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Chloë Sevigny, and others uncomfortably around the dinner table in order to probe the issues that, in America’s current political climate, can no longer be avoided.
Mark White’s screenplay is pure gold. The nonsense that Lithgow’s Doug Strutt spouts – ‘I’ve been to the buffet of life; I’ve tasted everything’ – could only be a parody of Donald Trump. The tiny stabs of wealthy white micro-aggression that punctuate dinner party conversation are met with Beatriz’s fierce resistance to the hypocrisy of those she must dine with: ‘But where exactly do you come from?’ The poise and intelligence Hayek brings to her role is unrivalled.
The film is preoccupied with the illness endemic to a carnivorous consumerist society. It is only Beatriz who registers the inebriating effect of the alcohol she drinks, the others infuriatingly detached from the realisation of their double standards. Doug even makes light of his unlawful business practices before questioning Beatriz’s legal entry across the Mexican border. Beatriz asks whether fate has engineered this confrontation between earnestness and obnoxious gluttony: should she enact revenge on the despot remorselessly exploiting the labour of her people or should she attempt to enlighten him as to the error of his ways?
On top of being an entertaining comedy, Beatriz at Dinner is a refreshing tonic for those who feel America is beyond repair. It is a film destined to incentivise marginalised voices to oppose those in the fascist autocracy.
Miguel Arteta and Mike White have nailed this one. Without a doubt, Beatriz at Dinner will become a talking point around dinner tables worldwide. If there was ever a film we need to see, it is this. Thank you Sundance.
CAST: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Jay Duplass, Chloë Sevigny, Amy Landecker
DIRECTOR: Miguel Arteta
WRITER: Mike White
SYNOPSIS: A spiritual health practitioner has no option but attend the dinner party hosted by one of her wealthy clients when her car breaks down.