Talking politics at the dinner table is usually advised against. But in the trailer for Miguel Arteta’s Beatriz at Dinner, which has been hailed as the “The First Great Film of the Trump Era,” present-day politics is served as food for thought. Salma Hayek stars as Beatriz, a Mexican-born immigrant and holistic medicine practitioner who, after her car breaks down, joins her wealthy white clients Cathy (Connie Britton) and Grant (David Warshofsky) at their posh estate for a business dinner. Once there, she meets and clashes with Doug Strutt, a cutthroat white billionaire real-estate-developer (sound like someone familiar?).
From the outset, Beatriz is cast as an outsider. She introduces herself to the gathering as a healer who practices Reiki and sound therapy. Cathy, however, is more effusive, calling her a “saint” and “Snow White”—terms that gesture more toward abstraction than human. Doug is more direct, asking Beatriz point-blank if she entered the country legally—over tenderloin and fish!—and assumes she is part of the “staff.” In put-down after put-down, he dismisses not only Beatriz’s work, but her entire identity: “The world doesn’t need your feelings,” he condescendingly avers, “It needs jobs, it needs money, it needs what I do.” To him, she is an alien, not a part of his immediate context and, by extension, the country.
The turning point in the trailer happens when Beatriz begins to openly defy Doug by questioning the money-centered values that govern his ethos and actions. When he calls his love for big-game hunting not “murder” but a “dance between man and beast,” Beatriz smartly points out the privilege of his position. “You think killing is hard?” she asks. “Try healing. You can break something in two seconds, but it can take forever to fix it.”
Given the political subtext, Beatriz’s statement about healing echoes some slogans of social advocacy groups that gained traction during the 2016 election: “Love Trumps Hate,” “Love not hate makes America great!” and “Trump with Love.” All argue that love, unity, and peace are the antidotes to the divisive politics and rhetoric prevalent in Trump-era America.
It is unclear whether Beatriz’s act of resistance will resonate with any in her company. Unsettled by Beatriz’s outspokenness, Cathy says, “I kinda feel like I don’t know you” at the trailer’s end. “You don’t know me,” retorts Beatriz. It’s a truth as well as a declaration of independence.
Beatriz at Dinner will open in theaters on June 9, 2017.
Image Credit: Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara