• by Wes Singleton

Beatriz at Dinner, B

Rated R, 83 minutes

The pertinent, engaging comedy "Beatriz at Dinner" explores what it feels like to be left out. It could've also easily been called "The Outsider at Dinner," "Guess Who Doesn't Belong at this Dinner" and "The Uninvited at Dinner," each something we've likely felt at some point in our lives. It doesn't fully explore its subject or its many ideas it espouses, but it's still thought-provoking and superbly acted.

Beatriz (Salma Hayek), an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner in Los Angeles. She collides with her polar opposite, a self-satisfied billionaire (John Lithgow), at a wealthy client's (Connie Britton) dinner party.

Directed by Miguel Arteta ("The Good Girl") and written by actor and writer Mike White of TV's "Enlightened" and "Chuck and Buck," the subversive and symbolic "Beatriz at Dinner" is an enjoyable yet bittersweet look at what it feels to be on the outside and never able to get in. Short and sweet, it's grounded by an excellent, brave turn from Hayek, who perfectly captures Beatriz: mousy yet lovely, outspoken yet kind, she wants and tries to see the best in everyone, including those with whom she deeply disagrees with.

On that note, the prick in question is Emmy-winner Lithgow, who's terrific as the towering prick who represents many of Americans today: wealthy, self-absorbed with some racist feelings toward those who are different from him. It's to Lithgow's credit that his stellar turn almost has you pity him rather than hate him, as that seems to be how Beatriz herself feels when she sees his true humanity.

At just 83 minutes, the film barely explores the many complexities of the many underlying themes here, not to mention Beatriz herself, who ultimately becomes a tragic figure of her own making. It also tends to rely heavily on metaphors to make a point, including streams and rivers, goats, cancer and wine, among them.

Even with a few flaws, "Beatriz at Dinner" is provocative, funny and heartfelt, and will have you talking (likely over dinner) afterwards about what it meant. It's also worth seeing for the talented, underappreciated Hayek in one of her best roles, and for the always excellent Lithgow.

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