Beau Is Afraid

Beau Is Afraid
Beau Is Afraid
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In other words, this may be a definition of the term ‘insanity’ that many people have used over time. In Beau Is Afraid’s second scene, the adult version of its main character (Joaquin Phoenix) meets with his therapist (Stephen McKinley Henderson). After all, if you ever were thirsty and drank from a well you then poisoned yourself in, would you come back to it in future thinking that it would give different results?

Arguably the whole concept of “insanity” is what drives Beau Is Afraid forward as a rather bewildering and emotionally brutal journey for which viewers may very well walk out on during its cinema shows. Other A24 movies reviews are out and the film has thus far been quite polarizing. Remember when Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life hit theaters back in 2011? At that time signs appeared at movie theatres across America stating “No Refunds” due to disappointed customers who couldn’t sit through it.

I must say though some individuals who walked out later regained their positions when I was watching Beau Is Afraid in IMAX theatre. Have we told you that Ari Aster’s latest movie runs for three whole hours? There are times when even one just needs to go to the bathroom. That long runtime seems to mark most blockbusters in recent memory — looking at you John Wick: Chapter 4, The Batman and Avatar: The Way of Water and more. However, let’s return back to Beau Is Afraid — a brave attempt but also an utter failure when compared with recent more accessible gems from Aster like Hereditary or Midsommar (though not many could). Here is our take.

Another thing we have gotten about Ari Aster’s work is this film is an adventurous epic by him as a visionary filmmaker. You might mistake the opening sequence for another movie entirely when sitting down for this film. This is how Aster starts off Beau Is Afraid – with a simulated childbirth, underlining the mother-son relationship that dominates the rest of the movie. And then it says The Super Mario Bros. Movie so you feel relieved that you would not have walked into the one next door.

What’s more? What favors would you do to make your child come home and visit you again? At best Aster’s work here is basically Beau trying to get back to his mother. Before all that though — including being kidnapped by an insane family (featuring Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan) and joining a traveling theater group who talks directly into the camera — we see Beau living alone in an apartment building downtown where every second is a waking nightmare. When everything goes haywire at this point, just before his imminent journey to visit his mother (Patti LuPone), following a series of darkly funny worst-case-scenarios, changes Beau’s life forever.

In its announcement to A24, Aster said “Beau is someone whose development has been seriously arrested.” “There’s a lot inside of him that hasn’t been resolved or isn’t understood by him,” Aster explains. According to him, tension paralyzes Beau who is stuck in time due to anxiety as he remains trapped within himself like some kind of teenager.

For his mise-en-scène, Aster is meticulous in each detail. In my theatre experience, there were so many wide static shots throughout the film where folks were laughing out loud and at which time Aster leaves you to read these hilariously dark signs on the streets of Beau, also the headlines on those absurd newspapers and TVs that characters are reading or watching. The film is a visual feast all around, and it’s worth going to watch for that alone. Well, for that reason, he is an immaculate director.

According to teenage Beau actor Armen Nahapetian in a recent interview with MovieWeb: “Ari is such an amazing person to work with because he knows how to talk with actors and collaborate with them so as to get their best acting out.” “It was great because I had the freedom of expression.” “He totally influenced everything about it.” “Everybody was nice” “And this way created really – like I said – surreal conditions where I could play so it meant a lot.”

Certainly fans of Homer’s The Odyssey will appreciate Beau’s journey. Also one might liken it something seen in Kafka; whose novels are known for melding elements of dark realism and the fantastic. It deserves such a heritage; Beau Is Afraid is an intimate dissection of its anxious protagonist; a character study about the unlived life -a heroic journey for someone not suited for this world.

By hour three you see Aster’s third feature as a darkly comic epic that feels at once sharply contemporary and imbued with agelessness. But that end result would likely split audiences into two camps — although not if some film professors choose to exhibit parts of it later…

But wait there’s more!—See that whole kidnapping scene mentioned above? It practically takes up most of act two but man does it ever take you through a rollercoaster ride of cringe-worthy moments, laughter then sheer terror etcetera (etc.). World-class actors Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan also give very intense performances that interestingly remind us of Darren Aronofsky’s earlier films like Black Swan, The Whale or even Mother! (no pun intended). In certain scenes it seems to be a Wes Anderson movie, as some scenes are artificial with comedic elements.

In all Aster movies so far, the theme of motherhood is present. In Midsommar and Hereditary, the characters played by Florence Pugh and Toni Colette are each running away from family traumas that have left them motherless. It’s an interesting turn of events that in Aster’s new film Beau has plenty of mother in his life — and then some.

Portrayed brilliantly by Patti LuPone as Mona, Beau’s mom is domineering, highly successful, and incredibly involved with her son’s internal existence from afar. However prior to this event as well as afterwards you will be blessed with some really fun cameos by other greats including Parker Posey, Richard Kind or even Bill Hader Tee hee! These little distractions make up for the fact that one might often feel bewildered throughout most parts of Beau Is Afraid.

We will not reveal too much about “how it ends” but just say that in those last few moments, there is a sham court scene which seems to engulf the rest of the movie itself. Just go and see the new Aster’s film so that you can argue with your friend who loves cinema about what it all meant in reality. Not only that, watch out for Joaquin Phoenix’s completely committed performance in that motion picture. It is a restrained yet awards-worthy work by the Walk The Line starlet, and we are eagerly waiting for Phoenix to appear as Joker: Folie a Deux.

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