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Ari Aster seems to be mostly exorcising his own demons in Beau is Afraid, a movie whose opening hour is not without merits but then quickly crumbles into an incoherent vanity piece.

I'm not gonna lie to you: some trepidation is warranted when you decide to watch Beau is Afraid. Besides the indulgent 3-hour runtime there are also the critical drubbing and the anaemic box office to take into account after all.

Still, during the film's first hour Beau is Afraid is actually an intriguing watch. Director Ari Aster might handle the titular character's descent into ever more nightmarish anxiety a little too heavy-handedly, but you are slowly drawn into his world, where fantasy and reality blur into a frightening middle ground.

Once Beau sets out on a road trip to his mom's funeral the scales tip over to bloated arty-farty nonsense however. Think: a Charlie Kauffman film without the wit or originality, or a David Lynch film without the constant dread. It all goes downhill (and becomes very, very boring) very quickly indeed.

Joaquin Phoenix' performance more or less sums up the film as a whole, as he gazes aimlesslessly in the distance during most of Beau is Afraid, trying to make sense of what's happening but failing to do so.

Ari Aster isn't the first director to get free reign after well-received first movies and he won't be the last. But for Beau is Afraid, he'd be advised to say to the audience the one sentence in the film that is uttered more than any other: "I am so sorry".

release: 2023

director: Ari Aster

starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey


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