It’s rare to see big-budget horror-comedies. Phoenix offers a refreshing, surreal performance in Ari Aster’s self-indulgent nightmare 'Beau Is Afraid.'
By John Farrar
Veteran actor Joaquin Phoenix gives another incredible and unnerving performance in Ari Aster's latest horror-comedy.
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Winner of the Week: Joaquin Phoenix
Movie: Beau Is Afraid
Beau Is Afraid, the hypnotic Kafkaesque fever dream of anxiety and despair, is the byproduct of director-screenwriter Ari Aster’s anxiety-riddled mind and A24’s bold gamble of giving “one of the most extraordinary new voices in cinema” a budget of $35 million to play around with. After the overwhelming success of his first two horror gems—Hereditary and Midsommar—put him on the auteur map (sort of), Aster’s third feature was bound to shock and disturb. I doubt even the most passionate artsy horror fans, however, were prepared for just how bizarre it turned out to be.
The official synopsis for the movie is as basic as it gets: A paranoid man embarks on an epic odyssey to get home to his mother. While the premise may sound simple enough, the experience of watching it is anything but. The viewer is immediately thrust into this chaotic world by experiencing Beau’s birth from his own (in utero) point-of-view. This opening shot sets the tone for the rest of the movie—bizarre and disorienting—which Joaquin Phoenix can pull off better than almost any other actor.
This movie allows Joaquin Phoenix to show off his range as one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood by putting the entire spectrum of emotions on display. From debilitating anxiety and paranoia to full-blown terror, Phoenix crafts the greatest cinematic depiction of mommy issues since Psycho (1960). The universe of this story is a heightened, fantastical version of reality—including some incredible stop-motion animation. If viewers can appreciate how bizarre and unnerving the scenes they’re watching are—and remove themselves from trying to understand the story from a literal lens—open-minded audience members can have a great time wallowing in all the surreal elements.
However, there’s an equal chance you hate everything about this movie. Case in point: A dozen or so people walked out of my local theater in the Seattle area while I was watching it on opening night. Despite the punishing runtime of 179 minutes—which you feel every minute of—Beau is Afraid is worth it because of the captivating performance from Joaquin Phoenix. The 48-year-old actor is a master of portraying characters descending into madness. Like his critically acclaimed performance in Joker, I couldn’t look away. This movie would fundamentally not work without Phoenix’s complete dedication to the role, which is why he’s been named Likewise’s Winner of the Week.
Interested in watching Beau Is Afraid? Add it to your watchlist here!
An interesting, entertaining, and well-acted illustration of one’s life’s journey under the duress of generational trauma/ curses. - @Juliet_Castillo
This was one freaky-ass 3-hour surrealist-dark comedy-horror arthouse flick starring Joaquin Phoenix — Not sure what I just watched BUT, I’ll never be able to hear Mariah Carey’s song ALWAYS BE MY BABY the same way ever again — or go up into a dark attic… YIKES! - @miaparker
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