New fan here! I am in awe of Miguel Arteta’s directorial magic in his latest film, Beatriz at Dinner, written by Mike White—whose nuanced screenplay, articulated by superlative actors, made it all come together. I must admit that I am still feeling distressed by the lingering echoes of the disturbing, but very familiar, dialogue. And Salma Hayek’s role was marvelous as the ever-so-slightly off-key, decent, truthful, and compassionate soul.
Miguel Arteta is a film and television director who, born in Puerto Rico, was raised on the island and in several other different Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, where he briefly attended high school before moving to the United States. He is known for the films Chuck and Buck (for which he was awarded the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award), The Good Girl, Cedar Rapids, and Youth in Revolt. Earlier this year, he was the guest director of the 2017 LA Film Festival (June 14-22), where he received the festival’s Spirit of Independence award.
Below, I have chosen excerpts from Shoot and The New York Times that address Arteta’s directing and vision:
Lindsay Bahr (Shoot) writes: Arteta, who is from Puerto Rico, wanted to represent the feeling of being an outsider, or an immigrant, embodied in Beatriz. He and Hayek had been trying to work together for years, which is something White (who has collaborated with Arteta on “Chuck & Buck,” ”The Good Girl” and “Enlightened”) knew when he came up with the idea. They went straight to Hayek with it.
“Salma’s personality is so perfect for portraying what it’s like to be an immigrant. She has a huge heart, she’s extremely intelligent and hardworking and she is not afraid to tell the truth. Her personality really matched Beatriz,” Arteta said. “We are hardworking, smart and compassionate people as a whole. And she has all of that in droves.”
Hayek was excited about her character and how unconcerned she is with the class divide (while everyone else at the dinner table ranges from falsely ingratiating to downright rude). “She’s really trying to look at them and figure out who they are. And they’re not interested in seeing her,” said Hayek. “I think that many immigrants will feel very close to this. You come from a country and you try to communicate, to participate, to understand, to absorb and many times you feel like they do not want you there.”
[. . .] The film can be an uncomfortable squirm-fest at times, as the wine keeps flowing and conversations get more tense and urgent. But that crisis feeling is intentional.
“We don’t want to offer solutions — to pontificate or not make you feel not so bad,” Arteta said.” We wanted to make a movie that says, ‘Don’t you sometimes feel hopeless and frustrated with all the evidence of how we are destroying our children’s future?’ and just leave it at that. And you can say, ‘Yeah I feel that way too.'”
Here is a segment from a review by A.O. Scott (The New York Times): The hopeless polarization of American society is both a truism and a taboo. We may be divided by class, race, ideology and any number of other forces, but many of us also cling to the belief — or the delusion — that a larger consensus still holds us together. Failing that, we can at least still be nice to one another when the occasion requires. Can’t we?
“Beatriz at Dinner,” a new film directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White, unflinchingly addresses that question, and declines to provide a comforting answer. The setting is a dinner party at a Southern California mansion made awkward by the presence of the title character, a massage therapist played with regal composure and understated mischief by Salma Hayek. The differences of background and economic status between Beatriz and her hosts are obvious enough, and the film hardly ignores them. But this is neither a simple satire of privilege nor a mock-provocative comedy of diversity and its discontents. It’s about a clash of values, about unresolvable contradictions. Or to put it another way, about good and evil.
[. . .] Mr. Arteta — who collaborated with Mr. White on “Chuck and Buck” (2000) and “The Good Girl” (2002), and whose other films include “Youth in Revolt” and “Cedar Rapids” — doesn’t push the evening toward melodrama or farce. He directs with a dry, Buñuelian touch, savoring small absurdities and letting the larger themes hover in the soft Orange County air. It’s up to Beatriz to bring them up, to spoil the party and bring the movie to life.
Also see https://parade.com/577967/samuelmurrian/beatriz-at-dinner-director-miguel-arteta-on-why-trump-wouldnt-be-a-believable-movie-character/ and http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-beatriz-at-dinner-salma-hayek-miguel-arteta-interview-20170608-story.html