If you are a fan of “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, last year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, then you might like A24 Films’ latest offbeat effort, Beau Is Afraid, by writer director, Ari Aster (Hereditary), a nearly three-hour oddball odyssey that eventually goes completely awry – but not in a good way.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Beau Wassermann, a character that is somewhat similar to his Joker role from 2019, in that he lives in a crappy apartment in a bad part of town and he has some unsettling behavioral health issues – as do his neighbors. But in this case, the various mental illnesses that are on display are played mostly for laughs, which, in itself, is kind of disturbing.
As the old adage goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, and it at least appears there are many people out to get Beau, for whatever reason, including his own demanding mother, who is the root cause of most of his neuroses.
Beau is on his way to visit his mother for her birthday when his apartment keys and suitcase are stolen. He has to cancel his trip and Mom is less than understanding, doing her best to make him feel guilty. By the time he’s able to schedule another flight, his mother has died in a freak accident.
What’s next is a series of strange misadventures and weird encounters as the lonely and desperate Beau struggles to make his way to his mother’s funeral, and you might start to think that he is the only sane person in this story.
Despite its quirkiness, I was quite enjoying Beau is Afraid up to and including its (what should have been) obvious conclusion, but then it takes a turn for the exceedingly bizarre and runs with another thirty-minutes of unnecessary nuttiness and a second climax that is just baffling.
Aster should have quit while he was ahead on this one and realized that wacky for wackadoodle sake does not a good story make. Fortunately, Phoenix’s performance in Beau is Afraid is incredible and bold and it saves the film from a much harsher grade.