When Salma Hayek filmed her new movie “Beatriz at Dinner,” she probably wasn’t expecting a firestorm of political reaction … but that’s not to say the actress is backing down from the pressure.
The movie follows a Mexican healer, played by Hayek, who attends a dinner party populated by the rich…and their richer friends. One of those “richer” characters is a real estate developer played by John Lithgow. Many viewers are gleefully making comparisons between Lithgow’s character and President Trump. Meanwhile, some Trump supporters are none too happy with the performance or the portrayal of the character.
Now, before we dig any further into that, a bit of context. A wealthy but sleazy and egotistical real estate tycoon is such a common trope in Hollywood that it borders on a given in any room full of uber-rich hob-nobbers. And, then, there’s the fact that the script was written before Trump made his historic Presidential run.
But none of that mattered when the film was debuted at the left-leaning Sundance Film Festival this past January. The inauguration and the Women’s March were on everyone’s minds, so the movie reviewers at Sundance could hardly resist making what was, at least for them, an “obvious” comparison.
Then there’s the on-screen tilts between Lithgow’s character and Hayek’s. The tycoon is gruff, assumptive and relentless in his insults to the healer, who he wrongly assumes is “the help.” So, comparisons to Mr. Trump are certainly within the eye of the beholder … and most of the beholders at Sundance jumped to that conclusion.
Turns out, though, the screenwriter wasn’t writing about Trump … or really any other specific person. He conceived the character based on his perception of the how the uber-rich were presented in the media. In commenting on the comparisons to Trump, Director Miguel Arteta told the Associated Press, it’s mostly coincidence:
“It was born from the idea of being at a dinner party where somebody was going to say, ‘I’m going to go kill a rare animal.’ How would I handle that? “(Lithgow’s) character really believes in what he’s doing… The tragedy in life is everyone has good reasons for what they do, even the people who are abusing power.”
Arteta said Beatriz represents the outsider, potentially an immigrant, who feels perennially out of the “in crowd.” Hayek, though, said she wanted to play the character as aloof about the class divide. Everyone else cares too much, but she’s not interested. Meanwhile, they don’t “see” her. This narrative is a common one from those who criticize some of Mr. Trump’s public statements on immigration … so, maybe, Hayek’s perspective isn’t that apolitical after all.