Acclaimed writer and director, Ari Aster, continues to push the boundaries of psychologically complex and divisive narratives in his third feature film, “Beau is Afraid.”
There’s a LOT to take in and unpack in this almost three-hour odyssey. However, to describe the premise as simply as I can, “Beau is Afraid” follows a paranoid, anxiety-ridden man (Joaquin Phoenix) as faces his fears while embarking on an epic journey to see his mother.
And what a journey it is…a journey so absurd and so committed to showcasing the effects of guilt and the turmoil of “mommy issues”, I still find myself processing…wondering, “what the hell did I just watch?”
Despite its title, “Beau is Afraid” is very unafraid.
Aster’s dive into the deepest recesses of Beau’s inner psyche is designed to immerse you in Beau’s chaotic life. It is uncomfortable, anxious and even a little neurotic.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, the way Aster focused on enhancing all of Beau’s little fears and worries in the first act, was captivating. A little on the nose in certain aspects, but nevertheless I was invested. I was rooting for Beau to face his anxieties and mommy issues head on. And although there are no eloquent monologues along the way, Joaquin Phoenix does a PHENOMENAL job with this exhausting and emotionally taxing role.
And then…somewhere in the second act, I drifted into confusion…and then discontent.
Yes. I was utterly transfixed by the entire surrealist sequence created by Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña. Give them all of the awards!!
And yes. I was very impressed by Patti LuPone’s mommy monster, scene-stealing third act. There’s nothing that queen cannot so.
And NO DUH. I will never listen to Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” the same way ever again.
But without spoiling any details, Aster turns the “crazy” up TOO much, creating a messy finale, losing my attention.
To those of you who have seen the film, the scene in the attic? COME ON. My boyfriend and I just kept whispering, “what the…” to each other as other audience members awkwardly giggled.
I’m all for pushing limits and adding in shock value when it counts, but some of the decisions made in “Beau is Afraid” felt like Aster was parodying his own A24 horror movie formula. And as a HUGE fan of “Midsommar” I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“Beau is Afraid” may continue to divide audiences, but hey, at least it ‘s stirring up discussions.
It won’t be a film I jump to revisit, but if you feel like being part of the crazy discourse, maybe take an Aleve and bring some snacks. You’ll thank me.