The A-Listers Talk About Beau is Afraid (2023)
From the couple who see a lot of movies because they have AMC A-List.
Patrick: Welcome back to another A-Listers. If you can believe it, our screening of Beau is Afraid had absolutely zero of the usual AMC shenanigans. If anything, Taylor, we were those people!
Taylor: With our only offense being the innocent smuggling-in of La Croix! Pretty tame if you ask me.
Patrick: Beau is Afraid follows Joaquin Phoenix as the title character, a paranoid man anxious to go home and see his mother. The journey is bizarre, fantastical, and even deadly. It's the latest from director Ari Aster and is his five-year follow-up to Midsommar, which I'm told is one of your favorites.
Taylor: If by favorites you mean one of the most horrifically terrifying things I've ever seen, making me sob multiple times where I then made a vow never to watch it again... then your sources are correct!
Patrick: With that in mind, how did you feel about Beau is Afraid?
Taylor: Oof. What a loaded question. To start with the positives, there's a lot I think this movie does really well. Its depictions of codependency and toxic relationships, the ways anxiety can spiral and manifest, and grief itself are all highlights, though I don't know if the absurdity and hyperbolic nature always land. What were your highlights?
Patrick: I was in love with the first hour. Beau's anxiety manifests as ridiculous hallucinations that play for laughs. Those laughs, however, turn dark in the movie's OTHER TWO HOURS (THIS MOVIE IS THREE HOURS LONG) and gets all too real. A dark comedy, I'm down for, but when the movie leans more toward the magical than the realism, it lost me.
Taylor: The first hour really is nearly perfect. It strikes a brilliant balance between action, comedy, and drama. The second hour was more or less pointless for me and I didn't feel like the payoff was worth it. The last hour was like a rollercoaster with very high highs (the final scene especially) and very low lows (the attic scene). While I see what you're saying regarding it getting hyper-specific, maybe I just relate to Ari Aster's life, but I found even the specific motifs effective.
Patrick: Boy, our screening really liked the attic scene...
Taylor: They cackled for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, I didn't find it nearly as funny, or really funny at all for that matter. So their laughs just made me angry...
Patrick: I do think that Ari's personal plight has its universalities, but most of them come in that first act. The rest, however, gets too in the weeds. To use two nature metaphors in two sentences, I don't think you can see the forest for the trees.
Taylor: Yeah. I understand that. This is something we will just have to agree to disagree on because I'm just clearly personally connected to the specific story he's trying to tell. Alas, alas... do you think that this is the career-ending movie people are saying it is?
Patrick: People are saying that? Absolutely not! Despite the issues I have with it, I still think it is very strong. In fact, it's probably my favorite of Aster's so far.
Taylor: I have a very narrow window for that consideration because I was too terrified to even critique Midsommar and swore never to watch Hereditary, but I would agree!
Patrick: We need to talk Joaquin.
Taylor: Oh, god. What is there to say that hasn't already been said? He's brilliant, he's incredible, he's scarily authentic, he methods the hell out of everything, and the jury's still out on whether that's healthy or not. Joaquin, love him or hate him, does a great job in this, as he does in everything. I'm personally not a fan of how far his method tendencies go, but I can't say he's not wonderful. I feel so internally conflicted about everything he does.
Patrick: I think we take him for granted. He's so good all the time, literally every time. He's so deep and intense and exhausting, even his best performances almost feel...stale? Is that bad to say? This, however, stands above the rest. He does all those things and still manages to outdo himself.
Taylor: I agree. I do feel like this is one of his most nuanced, vulnerable performances because it isn't insanely shock-valued like, say, Joker. When you have someone like Joaquin in Joker, your first thought is, "Look how much weight he's lost! That's real commitment! He looks horrible!" But his performance here is different. It's committed in a way that doesn't make you genuinely fear for his well-being. This movie would not be nearly what Ari set out for it to be without Joaquin in the title role.
Patrick: As you know, I often quote my old AP Psychology teacher's famous quip, "You have to laugh to keep from crying." This movie, and Joaquin's performance, feels like the cinematic version of an AP Psychology teacher saying, "You have to laugh to keep from crying." Does that make sense?
Taylor: Unfortunately, I don't relate because I actually did more crying than laughing.
Patrick: One more question that maybe you can answer: Why is Ari Aster so obsessed with people cracking their heads on rocks?
Taylor: I don't think I want to find out.
Patrick: We didn't even mention Patti LuPone or Nathan Lane or Bill Hader or Parker Posey or Stephen McKinley Henderson or Richard Kind! (Yes, all of those people are in this movie!) The Ari and Joaquin Variety Hour is so ridiculous, you almost forget that it's populated with amazing actors!
Taylor: Yes! Their roles vary significantly in importance and screen time (with those two things not necessarily being connected...) but you're right, they're all amazing. I think young Beau played by Armen Nahapetian is particularly strong, and I'm excited to see what he does in the future.
Patrick: Seeing this movie helped us discover two things: First, Armen Nahapetian. Second, the trailer for the movie Strays.
Taylor: Which looks so bad it's good - our favorite kind of AMC movie!
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