Beau Is Afraid and I am confused: Ari Aster’s comedic venture is still scary
"I think I need to call my mom," a middle-aged gentleman remarked to me as everyone got out of the theatre after a three-hour-long anxious viewing of Beau Is Afraid, Ari Aster's newest comedy-horror about a man's attempt to reconnect with his mother despite having the "disappointment" label imposed on him throughout his life.
If you are not familiar with Ari Aster's previous works, this movie may not be for you as watching it will most definitely elicit a rather wrongful first impression of the director's works. Beau Is Afraid is the result of giving an emerging director who's made a mark in cinema their creative freedom; I'm just not convinced he should be allowed to use them again.
The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix playing Beau Wasserman, an extremely anxious sad-sack with no redeemable qualities that allow the viewers to grow a liking to him and Joaquin Phoenix's performance is nothing short of excellent.
The film surrounds Beau being confronted with one unfortunate event after another. Even if all of it may be made up in his mind, watching him go through the worst doesn't enable the audience to empathise with him. Throughout the film, I wasn't sure if I should root for him. Beau has nothing going on for himself, and everything he experiences is too bad to be true.
The runtime is painstakingly long, and it is only the first act that seems to make the most sense. The first scenes are fast-paced and even if hyperbolic, the events he goes through make sense. The camera work in the city scenes proves to be well-thought-out and beautifully executed.
In the second act, however, there is a severe tonal shift in the movie after which the plot suffers and becomes confusing just for the sake of it. If the entirety of the second act was cut out from the movie, it would make no difference to my understanding of the film.
The third act is where more of our questions start getting answered. Beau finally comes face to face with his mother and this is where a lot of the issues surrounding mother-son relationships float to the surface. Maybe you will find some elements of relatability in Patti LuPone's monologue about having to love someone who constantly and unfailingly disappoints, but that gets drowned out in the overwhelming concentration of nonsensical hogwash that goes on in the scenes surrounding it.
If you're watching Beau Is Afraid with the intention of finding out what it's about, you're probably doing it wrong. There is no puzzle to piece together or a mystery to solve. Psychological horror is the newest craze, and the notion is there is always a lesson to take away at the end. However, I walked out of the theatre gaining no new viewpoints of the world.
Just watching the movie, itself won't suffice to understand it, but maybe the point isn't to understand the film. Maybe all it does is exist as a reminder that you should always call your mom to check up on her.
Koushin is still struggling to get over her jet lag. Send her obscure Wikipedia articles at [email protected]