Written and Directed by Ari Aster
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Ryan, Patti LuPone, Nathan Lane, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Parker Posey

After two near masterpieces in Hereditary and Midsommar, Ari Aster finally has gotten ahead of his skis. In making his oddysey for the middle-aged, infirm and mother dominated virgin, Aster plays things more for affect rather than creating a comprehensive or consistent story.

The story begins with Beau (Phoenix) meeting with his therapist (Henderson), being asked how he feels about his pending trip to visit his mother. It’s an obvious point of contention for the slovenly, indecisive son. Soon we see Beau in squalid living conditions. At first one wonders at how ridiculous these conditions are, as Beau has to sneak past all sorts of human waste to get to his horrible apartment. The clear intent behind these scenes is absurdist tragic comedy. It loses its effect soon, but Aster keeps pounding away at his lowly protagonist.

By the time Beau misses his filght, the joke loses its humor. We’re in for a long, long (179 minutes) barrage of incessant woe heaped upon Beau. We see that Aster likes the shot with someone of significance in the background, hates the pill popping culture, and makes it clear that Beau has a serious case of blue balls. None of this is entertaining as much as cyclical.

We’re supposed to find this all funny somehow, but its sad as it is silly. It’s clear at this point that Aster has his choice of actors. It is equally clear he’s copying Wes Anderson and The Coen Brothers among others. The films those directors made with that style of humor fail to resonate with this viewer either. One astounding result of his newfound reputation is his ability to get the 50+ year old Posey to do a nude sex scene. For a dark laugh, of course.

This film goes a long way to say not that much. Aster could use some serious editing. Phoenix is game for all of the punishment headed his way. The result is a character as unbelievable as he is ultimately pathetic. Everyone else along the way possess the ability to annoy within seconds, and for no other reason than to pile on as if there is some humor behind the cruelty.

If you have three hours to kill, feel free to give this film a try. Aster has enough skill to at least make the time pass. This will fade quickly from his resume. His requisite talent is in abundance but Beau is Afraid feels more like a vanity project aping his auteur heroes.

(**1/2 out of *****)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s