By Liz Lopez
Written by Mike White (“School of Rock,” TV’s “Enlightened”) and directed by Miguel Arteta (“Youth in Revolt,” “The Good Girl”), “Beatriz at Dinner” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year and subsequently was released theatrically this past summer. Oscar® nominees Salma Hayek (“Frida,” “How to Be a Latin Lover”) and John Lithgow (“Terms of Endearment,” “The Crown”) lead an all-star cast in “Beatriz at Dinner,” that is to be released on DVD and On Demand September 12th from Lionsgate.
The film about characters from vastly different sociopolitical backgrounds colliding over dinner also features Chloe Sevigny (TV’s “Big Love,” Boys Don’t Cry), Connie Britton (TV’s “Friday Night Lights,” “Nashville”), Amy Landecker (TV’s “Transparent,” “Doctor Strange”), and Jay Duplass (TV’s “Transparent,” “Togetherness”).
Synopsis: Beatriz (Hayek), an immigrant from a poor Mexican town, draws upon her innate kindness as a spiritual health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt (Lithgow) is a rich and ruthless real-estate developer. When fate brings them together at a dinner party, it leads to a culture clash of wildly comic proportions – and a night that will change both their worlds forever.
Miguel Arteta Interview:
I spoke with director Miguel Arteta recently as “Beatriz at Dinner” is released for home entertainment. We began our conversation about the outstanding cast and setting for the film. He stated the movie was made independently and they had help with a casting director, but Mike White who wrote the script had wanted Salma Hayek for the role. He added when she was presented with the script, she loved it and came on board. The director also mentioned how good it was to have Connie Britton and John Lithgow in their respective roles, stating their performances are great.
Arteta stated Salma’s character “did not know how to communicate and get her point across” and John’s character “is horrible, but funny and charismatic.” He also added, “It was important to not make it tacky” and described the other characters to be from “a gray moral area we live in.”
The setting for the dinner party is beautiful and I understood from other material I read that the owner’s family remained in the home while filming. Arteta agreed and said the owners have an “impressive” house. “I have never filmed in a home while people are in it. It was a little strange, especially after the first week. You see the kids getting peanut butter sandwiches.”
I asked the director about his involvement with the script, but he gave full credit to Mike White. “He is my favorite (writer) and I feel lucky to work with him three times. (They previously worked together on “The Good Girl” and “Chuck and Buck” films.) Arteta described White’s writing as “every line has a purpose.” This also gives him and the actors an inspiration on how to bring more to the story; to do it justice. He also described working with White yields an incredible level of respect (as opposed to others).
The ending of the film has yielded different responses from the audience. Arteta responded that many Indies are closing in a “neat ending” –and this one is not. He described it is “interesting, funny, then the tables turn” and the script “lets you make up your mind. It goes to a very dark place.” Also, he said the ending is “devastating in a way.” “Ironically” he added, this “offers the fantasy of her going back to the place that does not exist anymore.”
“I am glad we made it this way; it has lots of integrity.” Regarding the audience, he added, “If they left baffled, that is ok. A lot of people watched it and questioned (the ending). Then two days later, even though ‘late’, then they liked it. It does that too.”
The “Beatriz at Dinner” DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.98.