BEATRIZ AT DINNER
Miguel Arteta's culture war comedy Beatriz at Dinner (R) gets a lot off its chest in just 80 minutes. "Comedy" is a term loosely used since the laughs stick in your throat, using indelicate topics for sly purpose.
Salma Hayek is a quiet storm as Beatriz, an otherworldy health therapist whose car won't start after a session at a longtime customer's mansion. Cathy (Connie Britton) is a one-percenter with a heart and deep affection for Beatriz. Cathy is hosting a dinner for her pushy husband's law partner and wife (Jay Duplass, Chloe Sevigny) to welcome an enormously wealthy new client.
He's Doug Strutt, played by John Lithgow, who like Hayek has seldom been better on screen. Doug builds anything to make a fortune, without regard for life, human or animal. He's crude, self-entitled, everything Beatriz's New Age psyche and history as a Mexican immigrant repels. Doug may have even played a part in that history.
Mike White's screenplay builds a comfy maze of white privilege, sets Beatriz in the middle and rivals Get Out for socially stratified satire. It takes a while for Arteta's ideas to click but his finale begins as revenge served cold and ends with chilling symbolism. Grade: B+ (West Shore 14 and Veterans 24 in Tampa, Regency 20 in Brandon)
Sam Elliott's low-key masculinity is showcased in The Hero (R), a dreary character study without much else to recommend it.
Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a TV cowboy whose lone hit decades ago never paid off in Hollywood. Now he narrates barbecue sauce and gets stoned too often. A movie role is offered and a western historical society wants to present him with a genre icon award, around the same time Lee learns he has cancer.
Good thing Lee has plenty of folks with whom to discuss mortality, often while staring into SoCal canyons and the Pacific. Elliott strikes romantic sparks with Laura Prepon's aspiring standup comedian, sparks joints with a pot buddy (Nick Offerman) and jumps through familiar reconciliation hoops with his daughter (Krysten Ritter).
Every fallen-star cliche director/co-writer Brett Haley employs goes down smoother with Elliott's baritone and unforced cool. He has deserved a spotlight role for years and now deserves a finer one. Grade: C (Opens June 30)
TIGLFF: A VERY SORDID WEDDING
Last year's Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival featured a sold-out performance by comedian Del Shores. The festival banks on his popularity again Friday with the Tampa Bay premiere of Shores' new movie, A Very Sordid Wedding.
It's a sequel to Shores' play Sordid Lives that spawned a 2000 movie and a LOGO channel series set in bible-thumping Winters, Texas. The town's first same-sex marriage sets off silly repercussions enacted by an eager cast including old pros Bonnie Bedelia, Dale Dickey and Caroline Rhea. Co-star Anne Walker will attend Friday's screening with Shores.
Showtime is 8 p.m. at Sundial 19 in St. Petersburg. General admission tickets are sold out but VIP packages ($50-$125) are available. tiglff.com.
SUMMER FILM CLASSICS: THE GRADUATE
Tampa Theatre, you're trying to seduce us.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Graduate with a screening Sunday should do the trick.
Mike Nichols' classic dramedy introduced Dustin Hoffman as college grad Benjamin Braddock, whose disillusionment leads to an affair with family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) while dating her daughter (Katharine Ross). Nichols won an Oscar for directing.
Showtime is 3 p.m. After the screening USF film professor Harriet Deer will lead a brief discussion. $10. tampatheatre.org.
OPENING June 28:
One of 2017's buzziest movies is Edgar Wright's Baby Driver (R), starring Ansel Elgort as a heist driver choreographing his getaways to a killer iPod mix. Along the way Baby sideswipes lowlifes played by two Oscar winners (Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx) and mad man Jon Hamm.
Baby Driver jumps the gun on competition with a Wednesday opening.
A review will be published at tampabay.com/movies.
In theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Wonder Woman: Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins show boys how it's done.
2 My Cousin Rachel: Rachel Weisz keeps us guessing in a Victorian mystery.
3 Megan Leavey: True love story of a U.S. Marine (Kate Mara) and her K9 dog.
4 Beatriz at Dinner: A Mexican immigrant (Salma Hayek) one-ups some one-percenters.
5 The Mummy: You know you want to see Tom Cruise get kicked around again.
(Dates subject to change)
June 30: The Beguiled; The House; Despicable Me 3
July 7: Spider-Man: Homecoming; The Big Sick
July 14: War for the Planet of the Apes