Arteta and White have collaborated in the past, winning awards for their films, Chuck and Buck (2000) and The Good Girl (2002). Beatriz at Dinner may appear in the Oscars.
Arteta's direction and White's screenplay are excellent. Arteta knows how to give emphasis to what is being said, by showing the reaction of those listening. The cinematography of Wyatt Garfield conveys the beauty of California and reminds us of the beautiful world in which we live. The music of Mark Mothersbaugh is appropriate.
Salma Hayek at Beatriz is fantastic. She feels deeply every emotion, and shows it. She is a spiritual healer, tuned into nature and loving animals. She is concerned that humans are killing off the earth, and states that she sees the world as dying, without hope. This, in spite of the magnificent sunset we are viewing as she is making that statement. Humans may die off, but the earth will continue as it has done for so long, is the message coming through. She feels without hope. So sad!
John Lithgow as Douglas Strutt is a delight to watch. He lends the character an attractive charisma, and shows understanding for what Beatriz is feeling. He gives a certain amount of nuance to Strutt. White has perhaps made him a little too much an unattractive stereotype, but we get the picture.
The storyline is black and white, with Beatriz as a soft-hearted, immigrant American, and Douglas Strutt as a hard-headed American businessman who develops real estate projects without much consideration being given to the effect on the people who may be moved off the land. Taken at it's face value, the film makes fun of the conflicting attitudes of the two different cultures, laughing at each, and laughing at how they react to each other.
The overall message being hammered out is that real estate development, especially in foreign countries by American businessmen, has adversely affected some of the local people. This is true, of course, but overall, countries like Puerto Rico and Cuba, for instance, have welcomed these developments and the American dollars brought into their countries as a result. The movie perhaps seems a little too simplistic, and the ending has left many people wondering what it is all about. On the other hand, it is entertaining and amusing, and the acting is a delight to watch.
When Beatriz at Dinner is considered as a satire, it is cruel, as satire so often is. The picture painted of Beatriz is not too complimentary. Her emotions blind her to the realities of life, and she ends up choosing to lose herself in the deep sea of the emotional subconscious. She is shown as an emotional fool. Strutt is depicted as a businessman whose only motivation is to make money. In reality, if that is all that inspires people to go into business, they won't last too long. The long hours and extremely hard work that is necessary to create, build, and sustain a business, will kill off any ardour for mere money. This attitude to business people is ignorant and insulting. It is business people who create the economy, and it seems foolish to bite the hand that feeds us. I don't like satire, and I don't like this film if I consider it only as a satire.
However, if considered as an allegory, Beatriz at Dinner is full of hidden meanings. The film is being touted as being of the Trump era, and Strutt can be seen as representing President Donald Trump. He can also be seen as representing the apparently unfeeling, pragmatic, realistic Republicans, who only consider the bottom line of any social program, and prefer to help people help themselves. Beatriz can be seen as representing the kindly, idealistic, Utopian Progressives, who only care about the people and alleviating their every concern, and the Earth and preserving it as they think is best. Both these stereotypes are also caricatures, but can be seen as how each side does see the other, taken to the extreme. The realistic facts presented by the Right which prevent the Left from achieving the Utopia they can see so clearly, drives the Left to want to murder the Right. The Right does listen to the Left, as did Strutt to Beatriz, but the facts outweigh the emotions. I liked the ending. I saw it as showing that an unconsidered, emotional outlook on life would lead us all back into the caves, and up the trees. Or into the ocean, taking life back to the beginning, perhaps to try again. This, in fact, is what has happened many times in the past, and is still happening. The message seems to be that surely there is a place in the middle where each extreme can meet the other side, and try to see the different point of view. Each side has a validity.
As entertainment, I enjoyed Beatriz at Dinner. As satire, I disliked it thoroughly. As allegory, I found it had me thinking for days after I saw the film. I wondered if the director and writer saw as much into their creation. If so, they are brilliant.