Director: Ari Aster | Script: Ari Aster | Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Beau Wasserman), Patty LuPone (Mona Wassermann), Amy Ryan (Grace), Nathan Lane (Roger), Parker Posey (Elaine), ea | Time to play: 180 minutes | Year: 2023
In 2018, no one could stop talking about the quirky and phenomenal Hereditary it was, the horror film of the then completely unknown Ari Aster. Less than a year later, the child prodigy’s next movie, the mind-blowing horror tale, hits theaters. Midsummer. Much more peculiar than the predecessor; critics in particular went with it. After four years, Aster is back with Beau is scareda feverish three-hour play that will further divide the audience.
Beau (Joaquin Phoenix in huggable mode) is a troubled man, that soon becomes clear. On the way home from the psychiatrist, he masterfully describes how he experiences the outside world. At every street corner a mad maniac is chasing him, there is violence and moral decay everywhere. Every step he takes out of his dreary apartment is a mammoth task.
When Beau’s mother dies and he is forced to travel a long way for her funeral, he begins an unprecedented paranoid search. The further Beau is from home, the deeper we also descend into his chaotic inner world. At first everything is manageable and we learn through fever dreams and flashbacks what damaged him so much: a traumatic first love and a Freudian I’ve got you there mother complex.
Gradually, physical experiences in the now, memories of the past, and crazy delusions become more and more intertwined, so that Beau is scared increasingly derailed. That produces scenes that are both funny and gripping, visually appealing and increasingly psychedelic, until they become downright grotesque. After an hour or two, you feel like Aster is randomly splicing ideas together and you start to long for the ending.
Strike the iron when it’s hot, Aster must have thought. After two critically acclaimed films, leading production company A24 has certainly given him carte blanche to bring his wildest dreams to the big screen. A three hour play time? No problem, great directors can afford it. And if the general public doesn’t like it, doesn’t that show the unfathomable genius of the film? An opportunity like this is rare for a filmmaker.
Beau is scaredeven described by Aster as “a Jew Lord of the Rings“, has become a megalomaniac project that will be hated by many and idolized by some. In that sense, the film is a bit like that of Darren Aronofsky. Mother, another whirlwind of feverish dreams that split audiences to the bone. As that film testifies Beau is scared of audacity, wealth of ideas and artistic autonomy. Whether that results in a watchable movie is another matter.