Let us repeat: Salma Hayek has never been better than she is in Beatriz at Dinner, the melancholy new dramedy from director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White. Hayek plays the title character, a Mexican immigrant who makes her living as a holistic healer-type—she mostly treats cancer patients through massage therapy—for Southern California’s 1 percent. When Beatriz's car breaks down and she gets stranded at the hillside mansion of her client Kathy (Connie Britton, wonderful as always), whose cancer-stricken daughter Beatriz once treated, she is invited to stay for an important business dinner being hosted by Kathy's husband Grant (David Warshofsky) for Doug Strutt, a super-rich developer (John Lithgow).
At first, Grant is not interested in having the hired help intrude on a make-or-break dinner with the man whose business helped pay for his house. “She’s not a housekeeper or anything—she’s a friend of the family,” Kathy insists to her husband. And with that, we have the setup promised by the movie’s title, and an opportunity for the filmmakers and Hayek, in particular, to create a character study that wobbles between excruciating, earnest, and poignant.
The first guests to arrive are a young L.A. couple, newly rich and with dollar signs in their eyes, played by Chloë Sevigny and Jay Duplass. Their goal is to become as rich as Doug, the megalomaniacal mogul who is set up as Beatriz’s foil the second he mistakes her for a maid. Beatriz, who is quiet but not shy, wants to see the world as a good place, but when she is confronted with Doug’s brutal capitalist id, something in her snaps. Over the course of an increasingly uncomfortable evening, Doug—who will no doubt remind viewers of a certain someone occupying a certain house of a certain color—belittles Beatriz and her worldview, because of where she comes from and how much money she doesn’t have.
But thanks to a nuanced and precise performance from Hayek—who evokes both charm and pathos in every scene—Beatriz more than holds her own. And the white wine she drinks throughout the evening definitely helps with that. In this exclusive scene from the movie, which we’re debuting here, Beatriz meets Sevigny's and Duplass’ characters for the first time, and after some typical cocktail hour talk about kidney stones, orders the first of many glasses of wine that supply Beatriz with the armor she'll need for the film's many savage confrontations.