'Beatriz at Dinner' And 'Megan Leavey' Celebrate Women Warriors

Jun 9, 2017
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"Wonder Woman" brought in a hundred million dollars at the box office last weekend. Two more films about women open this weekend. Salma Hayek stars in "Beatriz at Dinner," and Kate Mara plays the leading role in "Megan Leavey." Critic Bob Mondello says both Beatriz and Megan are in their own ways also warriors.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Beatriz is a masseuse stranded one evening at the beachfront home of wealthy clients.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEATRIZ AT DINNER")

CONNIE BRITTON: (As Cathy) You can just stay for dinner. It's just a work thing, is the only thing.

MONDELLO: Cathy regards Beatriz as a friend after she helped their daughter recover from cancer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEATRIZ AT DINNER")

BRITTON: (As Cathy) No, no, no, no, no, no, it should be fine.

SALMA HAYEK: (As Beatriz) I can even wait in the car if you want.

BRITTON: (As Cathy) Don't be silly.

MONDELLO: The dinner guests include a real estate tycoon everyone seems to be courting. Brash, a big-game hunter, he is from the moment he arrives oil to Beatriz's water.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEATRIZ AT DINNER")

JOHN LITHGOW: (As Doug Strutt) Can I get another bourbon, hon?

JAY DUPLASS: (As Alex) Oh, no, Doug, this is Beatriz. She's staying for dinner.

LITHGOW: (As Doug Strutt) Oh, you were hovering. I just figured you were a part of the staff.

HAYEK: (As Beatriz) Do I know you?

DUPLASS: (As Alex) Doug's famous. He's been on the news.

HAYEK: (As Beatriz) I don't know why. I think I know you.

LITHGOW: (As Doug Strutt) Ever danced in Vegas (laughter)?

MONDELLO: And things deteriorate from there. Played by John Lithgow, the big shot almost can't help reminding you of someone. Though the script was penned before the election, its conversations...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEATRIZ AT DINNER")

HAYEK: (As Beatriz) When I first came to the United States a long time ago...

LITHGOW: (As Doug Strutt) Did you come legally?

MONDELLO: ...Pick up on themes and volatility that are still in the air. Salma Hayek's Beatriz isn't any more diplomatic than the developer. And when he starts talking about hotels he built in Latin America, she remembers one.

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HAYEK: (As Beatriz) It closed. It was only open for a year.

LITHGOW: (As Doug Strutt) Mine don't close.

AMY LANDECKER: (As Jeana) This tenderloin was amazing.

CHLOE SEVIGNY: (As Shannon) So was the fish - so buttery, flaky.

HAYEK: (As Beatriz) This hotel destroyed my whole town.

MONDELLO: Got to love the wives' attempts to steer the conversation to food. For a class-based allegory, "Beatriz At Dinner" is nicely observed. But the arguments are a little on-the-nose, and the filmmakers don't quite know where to go once they've set their main characters in opposition. Hayek and Lithgow are terrific. Everybody is, really. But the script pushes them into corners, and that's pretty much that.

No one was going to push the real-life Megan Leavey into corners, not her mother who balked when she decided to join the Marines...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MEGAN LEAVEY")

EDIE FALCO: (As Jackie Leavey) I just don't know why you want to do this.

KATE MARA: (As Megan Leavey) Yeah, I know you don't.

FALCO: (As Jackie Leavey) Just so you know, running away isn't going to solve anything.

MONDELLO: ...Not her drill instructor...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MEGAN LEAVEY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Hang up that phone. Tuck your shirt in.

MONDELLO: ...And certainly not the officer who gave her cleanup duty with the canine corps in basic. It was punishment. It was not going to work, but then she encountered a German shepherd as anti-social as she.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MEGAN LEAVEY")

GERALDINE JAMES: (As Dr. Turbeville) I've been watching this dog all year. He's the most aggressive dog I've ever treated.

MONDELLO: It would not be true to say that it was love at first sight for either Megan, played by Kate Mara, or Rex, played by a German shepherd named Varco. But with some struggle, mostly on her part, they do manage to bond. Rex, a bomb-sniffing dog, was being prepped for assignment to Iraq where Megan finds common cause with another trainer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MEGAN LEAVEY")

RAMON RODRIGUEZ: (As Matt Morales) I'm Matt Morales. I'll be your tour guide today.

MARA: (As Megan Leavey) Megan Leavey. Who's that?

RODRIGUEZ: (As Matt Morales) That's Chico. Chico, sit. I trained Chico to lick the enemy to death.

MARA: (As Megan Leavey) Nice.

RODRIGUEZ: (As Matt Morales) So where you from?

MARA: (As Megan Leavey) New York.

RODRIGUEZ: (As Matt Morales) You're not a Yankees fan, though, right?

MARA: (As Megan Leavey) Born and bred.

RODRIGUEZ: (As Matt Morales) Oh, come on. Dagger to my heart - really? Well, I guess we'll never speak again, Megan. Chico, we don't talk to Yankees fans, right? Good boy.

MONDELLO: Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite's spare handheld camera work comes into its own once the canine teams are out in the field.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MEGAN LEAVEY")

COREY JOHNSON: (As Master Sergeant) We need one dog team for a road sweep and surrounding area check.

MONDELLO: The film becomes a tense military procedural.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MEGAN LEAVEY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Dog up. Leavey, check the vehicle.

MONDELLO: The film is only about half over at that point, and where it goes afterwards is surprising. So I'll let you discover it yourself. Suffice it to say that real life threw more curveballs at Megan Leavey than even talented screenwriters could throw at Beatriz. Both women, happily, are undaunted by challenge. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRUIT BATS SONG, "WHEN U LOVE SOMEBODY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.