BEAU IS AFRAID opens nationwide April 21st.
Cinema’s modern era is full of filmmakers who have mastered the art of crafting stories that scare audiences out of their seats and continue to haunt their nightmares for days on end. One of the most unique, provocative, and simply twisted artists of this generation is Ari Aster, who returns as the writer and director of one of the most intriguing horror movies of 2023, BEAU IS AFRAID.
That being said, to merely describe this film – which is opening this weekend at select locations in NY and LA, but nationwide at AMC Theatres on Friday, April 21st – as “horror” would be doing a disservice to it, as it also encapsulates a wide variety of tones and categories that range from visceral adventure fantasy to absurdist surrealism, for instance. However, as any fan of Aster should be able to expect by now, it is undeniably disturbing enough to earn a spot in AMC’s Chills & Thrills program. The following is a spoiler-free sneak peek at all the chills, the thrills, and everything else in between that you can expect to experience in BEAU IS AFRAID.
An Epic, Nightmarish Odyssey
To see the world through the eyes of the title character from BEAU IS AFRAID means to live a traumatic nightmare with no end in sight and next to no chance of pause. He is a lonely, anxious, middle-aged hypochondriac who sees his worst fears come to life right before his eyes every single day in the apocalyptic no man’s land that is the neighborhood outside his dingy apartment.
However, his true descent into madness at the center of this story begins with a failed attempt to visit his mother after a long time apart, inadvertently creating a domino effect of increasingly disturbing and sometimes ridiculously bizarre situations that continue to haunt him no matter how hard he tries to escape. Even when the film offers the slightest semblance of optimism, it almost immediately becomes clear that the worst is just right around the corner for our disoriented and horribly misunderstood protagonist. Each stage of his long, mesmerizing journey is bookended by a flashback to his childhood that further reveals an answer to the mysteries behind his scarred psyche.
Joaquin Phoenix Leads As Beau
The last time we saw Joaquin Phoenix give a performance as painful, vulnerable, and even perplexing as his captivating portrayal of Beau Wassermann, it earned him an Academy Awars®. However, the crucial distinction from Arthur Fleck in Todd Phillips’ unsettling DC-inspired drama, JOKER, is that, throughout BEAU IS AFRAID, the title character never loses the audience’s sympathy, making the troubling circumstances he faces – no matter how absurd – all the more heartbreaking.
Like most great epic journeys, Beau encounters an interesting assemblage of characters along the way, played by a stellar ensemble of acclaimed talents. Tony Award-winner Nathan Lane and Oscar® nominee Amy Ryan star as a married couple who invite Beau into their home. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS’ Denis Ménochet plays a mentally unstable war veteran who has it out for Beau, and Hayley Squires – recently seen on FX’s “Great Expectations” miniseries – plays a member of a traveling theatre troupe he encounters in the woods. The BEAU IS AFRAID cast also includes Stephen McKinley Henderson as Beau’s therapist, Parker Posey as his long-lost childhood crush, Elaine, and his wealthy mother, Mona, is played in her younger years by Zoe Lister-Jones and in the present by stage and screen legend Patti LuPone.
Ari Aster’s Newest Film
Following a series of successful short films – such as 2011’s 28-minute, polarizing viral hit, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons – Ari Aster made an extraordinary feature-length debut in 2018 with HEREDITARY – a deeply unsettling family drama featuring a powerhouse Toni Collette performance and a shocker of an ending. The following year, he released his equally impressive sophomore effort, MIDSOMMAR.
BEAU IS AFRAID is Aster’s third feature – and third collaboration with A24 – which is also an extended (as in 172 minutes longer) adaptation of his 7-minute 2011 short, BEAU, which stars The Strange Thing About the Johnsons’ Billy Mayo in the title role. The film is, undeniably, just as startling and perturbing – yet, also captivatingly picturesque – as his previous acclaimed hits, but also sees him turn over a new leaf of sorts by leaning much further into the morbidly comedic side of his talents than ever before.
If a bizarre and fantastic adventure with startling thrills and bursts of otherworldly humor sounds right up your alley, be sure to check out BEAU IS AFRAID when it comes to an AMC Theatres location near you!
BEAU IS AFRAID opens nationwide April 21st.