Beatriz at Dinner is a sharp reflection on class and immigration in contemporary American society—which is to say, in a society teetering on the brink of fascism. Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a Mexican massage therapist and healer living in Altadena, California, whose car breaks down at her employer's mansion. The lady of the house, Cathy (played with aplomb by Connie Britton), invites Beatriz to stay for the business dinner that her husband, Grant (David Warshofsky), is hosting. By the time the guest of honor arrives—Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a plutocratic land developer—we sense that something is off.
Mike White's script is exquisitely attuned to the fissures of conversational awkwardness through which irreconcilable social antagonisms reveal themselves. Beatriz regales the dinner party with tales of healing and magic, which the guests are at least slightly charmed by until it becomes clear that she isn't going to shut up. Beatriz's gentle but firm refusal to fade into the background and play the role of the cute but naïve outsider soon starts to grate on the guests. As she subjects them to an escalating series of moral, ethical, and spiritual interrogations, their polite tolerance of her difference starts to fade and their nihilistic sense of entitlement to the planet's resources becomes clear.
Beatriz at Dinner is a lucid, if visually and narratively modest, diagnosis of this moment in American history. Miguel Arteta's sensitive direction and light touch make material that might have otherwise been heavy-handed feel sharply critical but infinitely complex. The lonely, curious, empathic, and traumatized Beatriz is the kind of character we need to see on-screen more often.