When a Dinner Party Goes Bad and #OpenWoof

The Open Roof Festival’s 6th week outdoor setting was threatened with pop-up storms, but luckily Mother Nature was kind enough to let it pass before the show started. This week we saw a mix of an old-fashioned array of genres meet the drama and dark humour of the modern Trump era.

A group of musicians from three generations, The Sinners Choir is a great band to introduce a primarily younger audience to genres that they may not have previously heard live. A blend of Roots, Americana, Free Jazz, Old-time Rock n’Roll, and Blue Grass were all on display in a hand clapping, foot-tapping good time. The Sinners Choir are all extremely talented vocally, not only giving us great harmonies but all taking turns singing songs about past love, ghost stories, and liking what they like.

The feature film, BEATRIZ AT DINNER, features a one-with-nature holistic therapist, Beatriz (Salma Hayek), who ends up invited to an upper-class dinner party with real estate tycoon Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) as the intended guest of honour. What follows is a tense, awkward confrontation between Beatriz’s empathetic, healing ideals and the self-centered, fiercely capitalistic outlook of Strutt and his accomplices.

The back-and-forth that emerges between Hayek and Lithgow is barbed bantering at its finest. Here the casting really stands out. While the audience is intended to sympathize with Beatriz, the much lesser of two evils, both she and the Trump-like Doug Strutt may be described as caricatures of the current political left and right as described by the other. Yet both Hayek and Lithgow bring a depth to their roles, Hayek’s expressive eyes betraying the pain her compassionate nature brings her and Lithgow’s joviality at times deployed as an emotional shield.

While the rest of the cultural elite in the film do not show many personality traits other than superficiality and off-seated political correctness, that is seemingly the point. The characters’ social roles at the dinner, after all, are the presentation of appropriately agreeable fronts to the “big man,” Doug Strutt. The dark humour inherent in the group’s attempts to keep up their smiling fronts even as tensions increase is effective, particularly in the film’s use of awkward laughs and silences.

While many modern films run the risk of padding long run times, BEATRIZ AT DINNER felt somewhat short at 82 minutes. If the cheers in the crowd for Hayek’s best verbal hits were any indication, more sparring between her and Lithgow’s characters would have been welcome.

BEATRIZ AT DINNER is a film that does a wonderful job at examining the societal divisiveness of the current Trump era.

Next week we will be transported to the 1990s with Canadian alternative group Altered By Mom. #InternationalCatDay will also be celebrated with Ceyda Torun’s KEDI. A documentary about hundreds of thousands of Turkish cats freely roaming Istanbul. A return to the 1990s AND cats! Do we really need to say more? Even these Open Woof Dogs are excited!

–Michael Marlatt

Remember to share the hashtags #MoviesMusicBeer #OpenRoof17 throughout the summer.