Beau Is Afraid (2023) Review



With a standout performance by Joaquin Phoenix and enough adventure to override its bloated runtime, Beau Is Afraid is an unusual, entertaining flick.

Plot: Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) goes through a surreal, wild adventure in his quest to return home for his mother’s (Patti LuPone) funeral.

Review: If you’ve seen either Hereditary or Midsommar, you know that Ari Aster is not your conventional filmmaker. He makes movies that confound, puzzle and definitely don’t follow a linear narrative stream. I thought I would get the same with Beau Is Afraid, and I was right – this movie is absolutely bonkers. However, it’s mostly a fun ride.

I read that Beau Is Afraid is a horror film – let me tell you, it’s more comedy than horror. There were a few situations in which I laughed out loud, unusual considering I usually watch movies alone. I don’t know if it was Joaquin Phoenix’s facial expressions, the sheer banality of what I was seeing, or a combination of both, but I laughed at this movie more than anything. I think that’s what Ari Aster was going for. At least, I hope that’s what he was going for. With this mad ride, I don’t think you can have any other reaction.

The characters, I found, for the most part, were interesting. Beau himself is a riot – Phoenix is the lynchpin for this movie. I honestly can’t picture anyone else in the role of Beau. Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan are a riot as a couple who seemingly adopt Beau – their good-natured, exuberant enthusiasm carries the middle part of the picture. The rest of the cast is serviceable, with one exception – I was not a fan of Kylie Rogers’ turn as Lane and Ryan’s daughter. Her character was too unlikeable and bratty for my tastes.

One trademark Aster has become known for in his films is how well he shoots. While Beau is no different, I didn’t find it as visually pleasing as Hereditary or Midsommar. That doesn’t mean it’s terrible – it’s still shot better than 99.9% of other movies. You can see everything, and there are some interesting shots – I particularly enjoyed the daydreaming sequence during the play and Beau’s trial at the end. However, there were no memorable transitions or cool shots than I’ll remember. Hereditary has the opening shot, and Midsommar has the bathroom transition that I still think about to this day. Beau Is Afraid has nothing – but it’s still well-shot.

Music-wise, it was the same team that worked with Aster on Midsommar, and I didn’t find that the music made any impression on me – I can’t remember the score at all. That’s par for the course with modern films; I rarely notice the music. Music used to be such an integral part of film, and you can pop in 80s, 90s, hell, 50s movies, and you immediately recognize the soundtrack. Sadly, Beau falls in with the rest of the crowd in this regard.

The running time was another aspect I felt was off with the movie. Checking in at 179 minutes, I wasn’t bored, but I did think it could have been cut down a little. The daydreaming sequence goes on too long, and the confrontation at the end runs out a little too long. The movie starts like dynamite and keeps the pace well for well over an hour but inevitably loses a bit of steam in the second half.

Overall, though, Beau is Afraid is an immersive and unique experience. Phoenix is terrific as the title character, and there’s just enough going on to make things interesting. Here’s hoping that Ari Aster continues in this vein as he’s one of the few true filmmakers plying his craft in this world of commercially bland filmmaking we’re all suffering through these days.