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Beatriz at Dinner

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Beatriz at Dinner

Beatriz at Dinner may not be perfect but it is rare and powerful in an unusual way and well worth seeing. Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a multidimensional physical and emotional healer from Mexico with medical training and a great big heart. She has driven north to a gated mansion in Newport Beach to massage the grateful mother of a former patient. When her car refuses to start as she leaves, Cathy (Connie Britton) summons a tow truck and invites Beatriz to stay for dinner with the arriving guests.

That’s our invitation to a culture clash that is by turns horrific, funny, and tense. Three couples – the wives dressed in perfect high heels and silk, the husbands in immaculate business suits – and Beatriz in blue jeans and an old shirt. Two couples are indebted for their lifestyles to Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a powerful real estate magnate who delights in recounting his African hunting adventures. Beatriz, who respects all life whether it is human or animal, is stunned and lashes out.

The dinner had begun as a typical upper level social gathering with conversation rooted in travel stories and random incidentals – anything as long as it never leads to an exchange of ideas or serious talk of any kind. The clothes, the stories, and the experiences are just another subtle form of competition.

When Beatriz’s anger at Doug’s killing of an animal turns openly raw, the others cringe and puncture the silent embarrassment with a few labored comments here and there. But the battle is joined. Doug and Beatriz are front and center in a battle over nothing less than the value of life itself while the others sit in mortified silence. Beatriz erupts, “Doug, try healing something; destroy the source of the suffering.”

Writer Mike White has written a script full of unexpected words and actions and director Miguel Arteta has made sure it is all filmed with appropriate subtlety. In an age when wealth equals permission, Salma Hayek builds a case for a social code rooted in kindness and caring. When she is most upset, she turns Beatriz to stone and the film takes an unexpected turn.

John Lithgow does the nearly impossible in creating the real estate tycoon. Although he exercises his right to do and say things a rich successful businessman can do in a culture where money is king, he endows Doug Strutt with one quality that draws our interest. He listens to Beatriz and actually hears her. The man who dismissed her as a maid on first sight learns she is both smart and wise.

Writer, director, and the two lead actors carry the action throughout while their supporting players are fine at creating the grim essence of dinner conversation among men who have succeeded financially and the women who play the supporting roles in life and in the film. Watching Hayek and Lithgow tower above them in anger and despair is a movie lover’s dream.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Beatriz at Dinner
Word Count : 497
Running time : 1:23
Rating : R
Date : June 25, 2017

 

This review was posted on June 25, 2017, in Comedy.

The Lovers & The Wedding Plan

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Lovers & The Wedding Plan

The barren movie landscape of early summer brings us two movies that, if not great, are worth the trip for some of you. THE LOVERS focuses on the boredom of a middle aged couple who indulge in affairs to lighten their lives. The Wedding Plan follows a young bride deserted by her fiancé who decides to find a new groom and proceed with the wedding. Each movie probes the ingredients of marriage at different ages. One is American made, the other is entirely Israeli. If neither is thoroughly absorbing, each has some strong performances.

The Lovers is one long, slow trip through the love lives of a middle-aged husband and wife who are lighting their newly dull lives by having affairs with others. Before you hit delete, credit Debra Winger and Tracy Letts with good performances that save the movie from mediocrity.

Mary (Winger) finds Robert (Aiden Gillen) while Michael (Letts) meets Lucy (Melora Walters) for indulgent sex while in their home life they merely pass in the night. Just as their non-relationship begins to bore us, it becomes clear that director Jacobs is creating the familiar vacuum that frequently infects middle-aged couples after their children have grown and gone. In the absence of real drama, the audience is free to wish them both the best and to understand why they reach beyond their static lives. It’s a tour of marriage boredom rooted in respect.

 

The Lovers & The Wedding Plan

The Wedding Plan is an Israeli movie featuring Noa Koler as Michal, a bride deserted by her groom just a month before the wedding she had planned for the eighth night of Hanukkah. Koler’s Michal is a 32 year old woman fed up with both her home life and the dating game. She is lonely. When the groom vanishes along with her fantasies about married life, she decides to go ahead with the ceremony. She has one month to find a new groom and is firmly convinced her faith in God will help her do it.

Director Roma Burshtein and her lead actor Noa Koler create an eccentric character in Michal. She is cheerful on one hand, desperate on the other. Armed with charm, innocence. and her belief in God, she turns difficult as the men she meets disappoint her. She dreams of successes and failures. An appealing supporting cast supports Michal as best they can even though the odds are stacked against their friend who is trying to achieve her improbable dream.

Watching a comedy that is a sub-titled story rooted in another culture has its own reward. The inflections in their voices, their reactions to situations, the quirks of the culture make a fine background for the eccentric and appealing central performance by Noa Koler. Be prepared for the unexpected twist that comes after a few subtle clues but with a kick that makes us ask ourselves, “How did I miss that?”

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Lovers and The Wedding Plan
Word Count : 484
Running time : 1:34, 1:50
Rating : R, PG
Date : May 28, 2017