Before you run out to see Miguel Arteta's latest film (he also directed "Youth in Revolt", "Cedar Rapids", and "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"), keep in mind it began filming two months before the 2016 presidential election. It only took a couple of weeks to shoot which means there probably weren't many rewrites.


To say that the film is a commentary on the current political situation would be merely coincidence, but it is a direct shot at Donald Trump. Moreover, Arteta's casting of Salma Hayek and John Lithgow as verbal foes is brilliant.


Hayek is Beatriz, a Mexican immigrant who works as an LA holistic massage therapist. She has a motherly emphatic quality that is perfect for her gig; she loves animals and identifies with the underprivileged.

She makes a house call to a wealthy client, Cathy (Connie Britton) who lives 60 miles away in a ritzy gated community in Newport Beach. Cathy needs to get relaxed for a la-dee-da dinner she is hosting that evening. After the treatment, Beatriz prepares to leave, but what do you know... her car won't start. No worries, Cathy and her husband Grant (Dave Warshofsky) insists she stay for the soon to start dinner and then they'll tend to her car afterwards.


This is when Beatriz gets to see with whom her seemingly down-to-earth client hangs out as the guest filter in. Alex and Shannon (Jay Duplass and Chloe Sevigny) are the first to arrive in all their up-and-coming superiority. Then the guest of honor Doug Strutt (Lithgow) and his lovely wife Jeana (Amy Landecker) arrive and the fireworks start to warm up. With Doug assuming Beatriz is a part of the household help, he demands she refresh his drink when she politely corrects him.


In a smug - as only Lithgow can portray smug - manner, Doug asks Beatriz where was she really from - assuming she is illegal. From there the evening devolves into a clash of classes as all the guests take their own condescending shots at Beatriz. The wives by pretending to listen to what she says and the husbands with snobbish remarks. But none are more pointed or racist as Doug as he lashes at Beatriz directly and indirectly.


The discussion seems to peaked when Beatriz notes that his real estate company bankrupted and destroyed her small Mexican village, but at this point she remains modestly composed. Until Doug begins to brag about his latest big game hunting exploits in Africa - the ultimate rich white man accomplishment.


Finally Beatriz builds to meet her haters face on. It is now a verbal David versus Goliath with Lithgow displaying the same cockiness that made him evilly great in "Ricochet" and "Cliffhanger" back in the nineties. Hayek is as simply graceful as she was in "Frida", all the way to when she gets on the offense. However, her role degenerates when she takes the offense as a bleeding heart and her character becomes awkwardly stereotypical. Writer Mike White ("Nacho Libre" and "School of Rock") dogged the ending as Hayek's dialogue pales compared to Lithgow's.


There is a moment when you might consider the film is has more in common with Jay Roach's "Dinner for Schmucks", as it seems that Cathy and Grant might have sabotaged Beatriz's car to keep her there as the target. But that would have been far too clever.


The question that is impressed is: are you whom you call your friends? The film does a great job posing that thought as it highlights the prejudices of the haves toward the havenots.


"Beatriz At Dinner" is one of those delicious acting clinics that lets John Lithgow shine as the consummate billionaire asshole and Selma Hayek mostly glisten as the target of his privileged wrath.   -- GEOFF BURTON