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Beau Is Afraid

Beau is Afraid (2023)

Ari Aster's third horror film is a mixed bag and exercise in surrealism and pop psychology the film is a collection of set pieces that vary between the horrifying and the dull. For some this is a film that is going to hit a number of notes...sort of a Cloud Atlas type film that if you want to love it you will.

The first and last acts of the film are brilliant. Textually dense scenes of anxiety and sexual horror that Aster plays to perfection. Phoenix's shcluby character is a bottle of disability living in a horrifying world. The apartment he lives in feels like a depressed hovel that he is scratching and begging to hold onto. We know the character is suffering from deep personal issues but Aster allows us to laugh at him rather than pity him. It's a fine line that Phoenix and Aster walk and they do it well. Everything is terrible for this guy but you don't really have empathy for him.

The problem with the film is that we get a second act where Beau trapped in this perfect American dream like land. Which unfortunately goes on for ever without a great payoff. It's not the fault of the actors but the weirdness never really comes together in this very long portion of the film. It's a rough juxtaposition between the first part that nailed so many great scenes with a second part that just didn't know what it was going for. I cam see of their are walkouts this would be the point where you would leave the film.

The third act starts with this massive dream sequence that is clever but leads to a random showdown that should have been a better set piece. When we finally reach the end and the final act Parker Posey, Richard Kind, and Patti Lupone show up and manage to salvage the film. We return to the sexual horrors that really worked in the first scene and several truly nightmarish set pieces that fans would love to dissect and interoperate.

But at the end of the day the film just doesn't come together as a cohesive piece. It tries to do too much for far to long attempting to make a horror epic and missing the mark at a few too many points.