Beau Is Afraid is Too Grand for its Own Good


Jamie Goldinger, Senior Staff Writer

Out of all the movies I’ve ever given a review, through any website or just mental notes, Beau Is Afraid is the one I feel the most unsure about. I truly don’t know what to say about it. It’s meaningful, but it’s also pretentious, it’s visually stunning, but also overly confusing. There’s so much good here, but I can’t get over some of the  problems it has. 

Beau is afraid follows the titular Beau as he tries to make it back home after an unfortunate accident. It’s an interesting blend of comedy and horror that makes for a surreal and one of a kind experience to say the least.

Director Ari Aster isn’t particularly known for making movies that are easy to understand, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. His last two movies, Hereditary and Midsommar, are both a tad confusing in their own right but are absolute masterpieces in my opinion. The problem with BIA is that it’s too confusing to fully understand, even upon rewatches of this three-hour movie. 

It’s like a puzzle, you can get the edges down pretty fine, but as soon as you start to get to the middle of it with those more intricate pieces, things get a little harder, add on top that some of the pieces don’t seem to fit at all. By the end, it left me extremely confused. My main problem is with how it blends things with actual important meaning, and things that seem to be there for the sake of being weird. It makes it hard to decipher what is and isn’t actually important to the meaning or characters. It ends up being frustrating in the end because I don’t know what half of it meant, to be honest, I don’t even know if I’m supposed to know what it meant. This honestly wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it leaned into the abstractness a tad more, but it constantly borders on being fully serious, wanting you to understand the deep underlying meaning behind everything, and playing things off as abstract weirdness, or a joke. 

It also tends to drag at times, so keep in mind that it’s three hours long, in addition to being rated R for nudity, violence, and drug use. It does an alright job at filling that time more often than not, but specifically in the second half, I could feel myself losing a little bit of interest. It never completely bored me, but it did fail to keep that momentum it had in the first half at some points.

Now, as I said, this is still a success in many aspects for Aster, some scenes legitimately left me in awe over how chaotic or shocking they were. I would also like to point out, even with issues with the smaller subjects, the big main overarching themes of anxiety, and parental issues are portrayed and developed very well . On top of that, one of the biggest wins overall was the ability the movie had to transfer that anxiety to the viewer through its twists and turns that never seem to go quite right. Also, it’s visually amazing, especially around the midpoint, so if there is something I can’t fault Aster for, he can make movies look good. 

The cast is also absolutely excellent. Joaquin Phoenix truly sells the role of Beau, as he is simply one of the best parts of the movie. He really makes the viewer feel for him and made me feel genuinely connected to the main character. 

 There is so much to love here, but it’s those small pieces that are holding me back from calling this thing perfect. I left the theater speechless, but somehow unsatisfied with it as a whole. You could call it a masterpiece, or a pretentious mess, either way, I would probably agree with you. So for all its worth, and keep in mind my opinion will probably change daily, I would give it a 7/10.

Note that I would still recommend it, as I think many people will enjoy it more than I did. If you did, I’m glad