Sometimes, we are graced with a movie so eye-rollingly ridiculous that it can only be one of two things: a parody or a festival sweetheart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Beatriz at Dinner.
This movie clearly fits in the category of “festival sweetheart” rather than that of “parody.” Rotten Tomatoes summarizes the film thus: “Beatriz (Salma Hayek), an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.” Clearly, it is actually about a liberal who teaches a cartoonish conservative a thing or two. It looks, quite literally, ridiculous.
This June, the film’s premiere will be the opening of Sundance London. That’s right, the pretension of Sundance with the prestige of bashing America abroad. What says “everyman” more than that? At only 83 minutes, one has to question the watch-ability quotient of the film, which the filmmakers could not stretch to feature length. Perhaps even they could only stand so much of their smug posturing. Just kidding, it’s probably unwatchable unless taken as parody.
Do you ever see a post in your Facebook feed or overhear something and wish you could reply, but hold back? Later, you play the whole conversation over in your head, how you’d best that person in a debate and show them to be a fool? Now, imagine you’re a screenwriter and the Hollywood machine is dedicated to propagandizing your point of view. That’s how you get Beatriz at Dinner. This is just the conversation they wish they could have, complete with the conservative responses which will tee up the perfect smack down. The plot and characters are simply a vehicle for the screenwriter to offer a self-righteous monologue.
There are two things about the trailer that strike me as especially interesting. First, let’s talk about Salma Hayek, who plays the poor immigrant who takes it to the mean billionaire. Her personal net worth is estimated at more than $85 million, but that is nothing compared to her multi-billionaire husband, François-Henri Pinault. Pinault is the CEO of Kering, the company which owns such brands as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen. Funny that Hayek would be fine with the billionaire in her own home but not with the billionaire philanthropist character in the film. Yes, she’s acting, but the overtly political message of the movie, with its skewering of the wealthy, suggests more than a whiff of hypocrisy on Ms. Hayek’s part.
It is also clear that the Hollywood is going all-in to politicize this movie in a way that doesn’t fully make sense. In the trailer, the film is hailed by Yahoo! as “The First Great Film of the Trump Era.” Similarly, Variety called it “The first dramatic comedy for the Age of Trump.” This was filmed, and almost certainly conceived and written, during the Obama administration, and at a time when it was seemingly inevitable that Hillary Clinton would be the next to take the White House. Yet they call this a Trump movie? They have clearly rewritten the facts to fit the narrative.
Hollywood and elites around the world will watch Beatriz at Dinner and feel good about themselves; they will congratulate each other and shower it with endless awards while everyday Americans will, I suspect, hardly know it exists. It doesn’t look entertaining, it doesn’t look fun to watch, and most Americans don’t care to see 83 minutes of virtue signaling by millionaires. With this film, Hollywood might have finally crossed the line into self-parody.