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Film review: ‘Beatriz at Dinner’ makes the political personal

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Beatriz, center, prepares her arguments.
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Three stars

Beatriz at Dinner Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton. Directed by Miguel Arteta. Rated R. Opens Friday in select theaters.

In the current highly divisive political climate, a movie about a tense dinner featuring a confrontation between the embodiments of right-wing and left-wing perspectives might sound like an unpleasant prospect, but director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White (in their third feature together) give Beatriz at Dinner more depth than a simple political shouting match. It helps that the lead actors add personality and feeling to their characters, so that when they do espouse political perspectives, those points of view seem like they come from genuine human beings.

Salma Hayek gets her best role in years as the title character, a massage therapist and all-purpose new-age healer who ends up stranded at the home of one of her wealthy clients (Connie Britton) after her car breaks down. Invited to stay for dinner, Mexican immigrant Beatriz finds herself face to face with billionaire real estate developer Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), who’s made a living out of exploiting workers and immigrants. Beatriz and Doug argue in a way that’s sometimes repetitive and awkward, but they also reveal details about their backgrounds that inform their worldviews. White and Arteta have trouble wrapping up the thin story, but for decent stretches of time, they approach something like enlightened political discourse.

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