Beau Is Afraid (2023)
April 22, 2023 5:23 PM - Subscribe

Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home.

Ari Aster expands the deadpan darkness of Midsommar and Hereditary into a three-hour kaleidoscope of satire, surrealism, fable and the macro-lens anguish of Joaquin Phoenix's titular (not to mention testicular) character. Sure to be the subject of a thousand explainers — as if.
posted by argybarg (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Two observations:

-- Ari Aster has become as meticulous as Wes Anderson or Peter Greenaway. Like both Anderson and Greenaway, he loves theatrical performances within a film, which means the traveling theatre's very tactile and mechanically realistic stage was gorgeous. In the same way, the city street and the home of his adoptive "family" felt like stages in the best way.
-- The mother was scarier before she opened her mouth. Not Patti Lupone's fault, but I found her dialogue in the last 20 minutes drained away the menacing energy and replaced it with kitsch.
posted by argybarg at 5:34 PM on April 22, 2023 [3 favorites]

Jesus fucking Christ, this bonkers ass movie.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:04 PM on April 23, 2023 [6 favorites]

Not often mentioned is that this film incorporates elements from Aster's first short film, "Beau."

Special shout-out to the sick fuck to my left who was the only other person in the theater laughing.

This is going to be the very definition of a "divisive movie." I laughed and laughed, but I have a feeling a lot of the people who see this won't even agree that comedy is one of the genres it slides through.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:27 PM on April 23, 2023 [5 favorites]

Everybody talks about the mom character, but Beau's dad is a dick.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:03 PM on April 23, 2023 [10 favorites]

Not sure by what measure it’s “not often mentioned” that this picture is based on “Beau”; it’s been mentioned quite often in lots of mainstream news sources, and it’s fairly well known that “Beau”’was thoroughly scrubbed from the internet before this picture’s release.

I thought this was pretty near a masterpiece, but then again I’m predisposed to love anything that Joaquin Phoenix does.
posted by holborne at 9:43 PM on April 23, 2023

I just want to see it. I can't remember encountering so much hype in recent memory for a non-Marvel flick.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:51 AM on April 24, 2023

I've read about a dozen articles that didn't mention the short. Weird. Must be weird luck.

Anyhow, the short starts 6:23 into this upload at Internet Archive.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:15 AM on April 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

Special shout-out to the sick fuck to my left who was the only other person in the theater laughing.

Were you at the Ashburn Alamo on Friday? Because this movie was both a three hour panic attack, and goddamn HILARIOUS. I cannot recall laughing at a film this hard in theater for quite some time (a couple years of mitigating circumstances aside).

I see this movie as a close parallel to Aronofsky's 'Mother!' - pure allegory, at no point do I think Beau is supposed to be an actual 'real-world' person having a series of events occurring at and around him.

My interpretation: It's a portrayal of the pure reactive anxiety and fear of the conservative mindset, completely detached from the rage and hate of proposed right-wing 'solutions'. Every act in the film centers around a facet of the world that seems particularly terrifying to regressives: the first section portrays big cities as a terrifying pastiche of 1970s New York debauchery extravaganzas, The Warriors on meth, crammed full of terrifying grasping invading hordes who wish to harm and defile you at every turn (these hordes being a three way split of foreign, poor, and/or mentally ill). A key shot of this initial arc is when he's hurrying through the pandemonium street to get some water, ducking and shying away from everyone, at one point he walks through some firearm yard sale where everyone is waving around guns - and this particular part doesn't seem to even register to him as a threat, vs the absolute terror presented by the grasping hands of the homeless. Also, I absolutely loved how his apartment starts off claustrophobically small, and in each successive shot gets bigger and bigger until he is dwarfed by near cavernous space and twelve foot high doors.

Second act - terror of the socialist nanny state taking away his freedom because they know what's best (even tho they caused the accident in the first place). My hardest laugh here, when a zoomer threatens to #metoo him unless he smokes their terrifying drugs, followed only when the zoomer dies by spite-chugging paint (a wink at the lunacy of people thinking the tide pod challenge was a real thing? who can say). Another key note in this segment is the anxiety caused by having to be too close to veterans who have suffered for their service, viewing them both as pariahs and potential threats just waiting to go off.. the hypocrisy of glorifying military service and condemning those who actually participate in it after they return.

Third act - the forest theater. This one is a little trickier because it's about allegory INSIDE an allegory... the false narrative that conservatism gives its audience of 'you have been wronged, and things have been taken from you, but you can get it all back and restore the family if you just stay the course.' Then, things fall apart when the cognitive dissonance becomes too jarring to square with the story (this, tied directly into anxiety about sexual viability).

Forth Act - the wake. This one and the final act i'm going to have to watch again to really chew on, as the tones shift even more dramatically. One aspect that really pinged for me is how Elaine just gets designated as the Woman For Him, even from childhood. Despite Beau having zero attractive qualities, she is bonded to him nearly from the moment she sees him. The plot sets her up as his heart's goal, the partner who was taken away and he must win back, but there is zero conceivable reason that she actually would want to be with him. His complete inaction and lack of any decision-making is still enough for her to fall back into (his mother's) bed with him. And then it's revealed that his sexual anxiety is warranted because he's actually TOO virile for any woman to withstand (another horror reveal shot that had me laugh far too hard for most of the audience to tolerate). The astounding balance of male entitlement to a woman's affections, vs the terror of every sexual encounter being framed as a potential assault.

The last act - the trial. The constant fear of being condemned for every choice and non-choice, of every act taken being viewed in the worst possible light. The idea that no matter how you try and play along you will still be known as a failure to be shamed, a disappointment to be shunned. And in the final judgement, be annihilated for. There is no reprise, no last minute pardon and salvation. And, if my interpretation of Beau as Fox News Viewer holds, there should be no redemption - it is a thing to be completely pilloried and rejected. It is his own act of inhabiting this worldview that finally consigns him to death.

Now there's a whole lot of things I really want to dig back into on a second watch - the entire mother and father dynamic is itself a powerful layer, the entire emasculation caused by his mother knowing every part of his sessions with his traitorous therapist, was the corpse he saw in the cruise pool the same person that was ODd in front of his apartment? But on the whole, hot holy shit what a ride.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:14 AM on April 24, 2023 [10 favorites]

I must have seen it with a good audience because the whole theater was laughing and reacting throughout. When a certain character fell into a glass table someone in the audience even shouted "WHAT THE FUCK??? HOLY SHIT!!!" in the most sincere way imaginable. There is something to be said for seeing such a heightened cinematic event with a truly engaged audience. Not everything about the movie landed perfectly for me, but watching it in a packed theater was a real high -- so much so that I wonder if that's what it felt like to see like to see The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover on its first theatrical run
posted by treepour at 3:39 PM on April 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

that had me laugh far too hard for most of the audience to tolerate

this. this is why I will probably make an effort to watch the film
posted by elkevelvet at 9:08 AM on April 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

The verdict is in in the first scene, when the therapist writes “GUILTY” on his notebook.
posted by jeoc at 5:39 AM on April 27, 2023 [3 favorites]

I feel like I enjoyed the first half of this movie a lot, but think it really started dragging once the mom emerged. I also died laughing watching this with a fellow Iraq veteran, but I’m not sure how much others will feel that
posted by corb at 10:07 AM on May 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

Just got back from a screening of this, with a Q&A with Ari Aster afterwards. He was adamant that he wrote the film as a complete comedy based on what he, personally finds hilarious.
posted by gaspode at 8:30 PM on May 9, 2023 [4 favorites]

I love that one of the boy band posters in the daughter's room has a bunch of small heads on it, and the band is named "KI55" and the poster says "WE ARE 55 BOYS AND WE ALL LOVE YOU".

I enjoyed the apartment chapter, and the forest play. It's worth seeing for the first chapter alone.

I was pretty checked out by the final scene, though. Even then I didn't really hate it, I just wanted it to be funnier. Thinking back remembering Beau's first dream/memory of the bathroom, with the mom and the brother -- the first time we see Mona -- and she turns to the camera and just mouths a stream of bleeped obscenities.

Kinda wish I'd seen it in a theater with audiences having reactions like: "I better not hear a single person f***ing clap."
posted by fleacircus at 11:21 PM on August 11, 2023

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