The Stream: At nearly 3 hours long and somewhat inscrutable, it is easy to get lost.
The Big Screen: A very original, inventive and complex story.
The Final Bill: Ari Aster knocks another one out of the park, even if it is too long.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Ari Aster
Writers: Ari Aster
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Stephen McKinley Henderson
Genre: Drama, Horror, Comedy
Rating: R for strong violent content, sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Runtime: 2 hours 54 minutes
Production Companies: A24, Access Entertainment, IPR.VC, Square Peg
Platform: In theaters April 21, 2023
Notable Trailers: Joy Ride, Strays, The Flash, Talk to Me, Past Lives
Hey, Streamers! This weekend I was able to take a journey into the mind of Ari Aster. Beau Is Afraid is Aster’s third feature film after Hereditary and Midsommar. Since I’m not really a horror fan, Aster’s work interests me more because I expect it to be uniquely its own thing with some creepiness added in. I really wasn’t sure what exactly to expect with this movie, and that’s the most exciting part. When Marvel movies, spy movies and romantic comedies are all indistinguishable from each other within their genres, it’s great to have a writer/director marching to the beat of their own drum. Here’s how Beau’s beat goes.
Yes, Ari Aster wrote and directed Beau Is Afraid, which is a strange meditation on familial relationships, mental illness, and guilt – among other things. Judging by this movie, Aster’s mind is an unpleasant quagmire. Anyway, for such a strange movie, the plot is pretty basic. Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) is a middle-aged man with extreme anxiety living in a lonely apartment in the middle of a dystopian skid row. Beau planned to visit his mother, Mona, but on the morning of his trip, things go spectacularly awry, and he misses his flight. Mona is upset, but not surprised that Beau isn’t going to make the trip. When tragedy strikes, Beau is spurred to make the odyssey to his mother’s place as soon as possible except there are multiple obstacles in his path. Mysteriously horrific and hilarious hijinks ensue.
There is so much going on in Beau Is Afraid it’s tough to put together. Plus, the movie is nearly three hours long. Although I did get restless with the 3-hour runtime, Beau Is Afraid is a movie that justifies its length as it is filled to the brim with story and ideas – both visually and thematically. On the other hand, I did get lost and momentarily disconnected from the story, but it eventually grabbed me again and I was glued to it.
Since we are spoiler free here at Stream2BigScreen, I can’t say much about what happens beyond the basic premise. It is just wild. There are some very funny – like laugh out loud funny – things that happen. There are some pretty gruesome, eerie and grotesque things that occur as well. It’s not a horror film like you expect, but it highlights mostly the terrors that lurk within the mind, Beau’s mind, in particular. This mix of genres has such an unsettling tone that it perfectly mirrors what’s going on with Beau. Joaquin Phoenix is reliably good, but I have to shout out the stellar performance by Patti LuPone. She comes into the film like a tornado and just takes over. She is fierce and ferocious. This was masterful casting and she gets the best lines.
Ultimately, Beau Is Afraid is a challenging and original movie. Ari Aster juggles a lot of themes in an inventive and entertaining way. There are great performances, particularly by Patti LuPone. It’s surprisingly funny while also being quite grotesque. You will not know what to expect except that you’ll have to devote nearly three hours to this somewhat inscrutable odyssey. If you can handle being confused for segments of the film, then the journey is worth a big box of popcorn.