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Beau Is Afraid, A Review

Beau Is Afraid

Aster’s Anxious New Film Is One That Needs To Be Seen To Be Believed.

By Rebecca Potters

Ari Aster has a reputation for telling stories that creep into the soul and stay there for years, and he did nothing short of just that again with Beau Is Afraid. The nearly three-hour film chronicles a week in the life of Beau, a man driven by his severe anxieties, as he ventures home to visit his mother. It sounds simple, but very few things in the world are as cruel, absurd, and over-stimulating as Beau Is Afraid is.

If Oedipus Was a Loser…

In a viral video released by A24 providing audiences with a sneak peek behind the scenes of Beau Is Afraid, Aster said, “I want to put you in the experience of being a loser.” Aster achieves this goal with ease. Beau is so pathetic that if he existed in any other context, he’d be insufferable. The captivation of Beau Is Afraid comes from the situations rather than Beau. Beau’s just some guy, a deeply traumatized guy, but some guy nonetheless. He embarks on one of the most insane adventures chronicled in all of film history, a journey of oedipal measures where the people, places, and problems around him are more explosively unpredictable than even the most imaginative of minds could try to anticipate.

Full disclosure, Beau Is Afraid isn’t a movie for everyone. Even those who love it can find at least one thing that’ll rub them the wrong way in this plot. A big aspect of Beau Is Afraid is absurdity. This horror-comedy takes a dark spin on Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’s use of the random; sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Oddball plot points and jokes come and go, and, admittedly, they aren’t all winners. There’s more than enough to love and obsess over with Beau Is Afraid in other places to make up for the few moments where things just don’t land as smoothly as they could.

A Cast with No Disappointments

Every character is impeccable, and the actors that anyone even remotely educated in pop culture would expect to be amazing are amazing. Joaquin Phoenix as the titular Beau is jaw-dropping. Beau’s personality would’ve been impossible to believe if it weren’t for Phoenix’s hardcore commitment to the character.

Beau Is Afraid

The supporting cast around him is filled with star power, with fantastic performances from actors like Patti Lupone, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, and Parker Posey. There are even some stellar cameos, like Bill Hader, who plays a mere UPS man with a screentime of only 1% compared to the film’s full runtime.

The unexpected queen of this cast, though, was Kylie Rogers. Rogers played Tony, the teenage daughter of Amy Ryan and Nathan Lane’s take on grieving, morally-questionable parents that accidentally cross paths with Beau. Although Rogers was only in the film for roughly a quarter of the movie, she absolutely kills it. Her youthful energy in a cast and film made for more mature audiences is refreshing, and the sheer havoc that she produces in all of her scenes is a constant source of entertainment. Her presence on screen is nearly synonymous with comedy. 

Beau Is Alluring

Even those who decide they hate Beau Is Afraid can’t go as far as to say that it’s ugly. Beau Is Afraid is visually stimulating and stunning. To watch Beau Is Afraid is to always have something exciting to look at.

Aster has established a pattern with his films. It’s become part of his auteurist approach to telling alternate versions of his stories within the story. Hereditary has the miniature art exhibits Annie makes about her life, Midsommar had the Hårga’s tapestry that displayed the entire movie’s plot in the old-school Scandinavian art style, and now Beau Is Afraid has the traveling play. Without spoiling anything, Beau finds himself attending a play that consumes the entire film. This kicks off an epic, long-winded animated sequence where Joaquin Phoenix plays the only live-action element on the screen, a rendition of Beau informally titled Hero Beau. It’s completely breathtaking. The colors, the art style, the costuming… it’s the peak of what Aster is capable of visually in Beau Is Afraid.

Final Rating 

Beau Is Afraid is an easy 4 out of 5 stars. There are plot points that fall short of expectations every once in a while, but the reality is that when a film is three hours long, there’s space for some things to suck just a little. Even the few shortfalls are nothing compared to the one-of-a-kind imagery and perfect performances that Beau Is Afraid has to offer.

Beau Is Afraid

Beau Is Afraid (2023) Official A24 Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Rebecca Potters graduates from Elon University with a BFA in Cinema & Television Arts in late May 2023. She's an emerging screenwriter with hopes of bringing her works in horror, comedy, and animation to life in the near future.