Monday, September 11, 2023

REVIEW: Beau Is Afraid (live action movie)

Beau Is Afraid is a weird dark comedy. I bought my copy new.


Beau is a paranoid and anxiety-riddled man who is going to visit is mother tomorrow. Unfortunately, this will involve a plane trip, and there are many, many things that can and do go wrong before he even makes it out the door. Which makes this sound like a relatively normal story, but believe me when I say it isn't. Beau has valid reasons for being afraid, and yet even he could not possibly imagine just how weirdly horrible his situation will become.

I was hesitant to watch this because it's an Ari Aster film, and everything I've heard about Hereditary and Midsommar have put them on my "do not watch, ever" list. There's only so much realistic gore and characters in immense pain and terror that I can take. However, reviews seemed to indicate that, in terms of gore at least, Beau Is Afraid would be different.

Man, this was a weird movie - never what I'd call pleasant or fun, but strangely compelling all the same. Initially, I thought all of Beau's fears and paranoia would be in his own head - present and possible, but never as bad in real life as his terrified brain always expected it would be. That was not the case. The people in Beau's world were messed up and terrifying, and, even if Beau's brain was exaggerating things, there were no normal explanations for some of the stuff that happened.

Although there was no real on-screen gore, there were a few moments that were, for various reasons, hard to watch, such as a scene in which one of the characters commits suicide by drinking paint, as well as the one sex scene and its aftermath. By the time you get to the sex scene, though, things are so bizarre that it's tough to know how much of what you're seeing could in any way be connected to reality. Beau definitely goes through some stuff.

Joaquin Phoenix was fabulous as Beau - even if Beau's situations were bizarre, his emotional reactions always felt real, and after a while I really wanted the universe to go a bit easier on him. But no, even when he was with "nice" people, there was something off about them and/or their situation, and Beau was a guy who was either constantly steamrolled by the world or defeated by his own inability to make decisions and stick up for himself.

During most of the movie, viewers gradually learn bits and pieces about Beau and his relationship with his mother, a powerful and overbearing woman who spent Beau's entire life molding him into learned helplessness. Was a good ending ever possible for Beau? Considering everything that happened, it doesn't seem like it.

I don't regret watching this, although I'm not entirely sure what I was supposed to get out of it in the end. At any rate, I'm grateful that my anxious fears aren't nearly as justified and all-encompassing as Beau's.


A "making of " featurette.

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