Tracker Pixel for Entry

Aster Shifts Gears with Mother-Son Madness in ‘Beau Is Afraid’

Cinema | April 24th, 2023

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

“Hereditary” notched one of the most dazzling directorial debuts in recent memory, catapulting writer-director Ari Aster into the rarefied air of A24 auteurs, the hearts of genre hounds, and the spotlight of serious crossover attention.

The filmmaker utterly curb-stomped any thoughts of a sophomore slump with “Midsommar,” a folk horror masterpiece even better than “Hereditary.”

Expectations for round three, the decidedly different “Beau Is Afraid,” couldn’t have been higher. The divisive, three-hour phantasmagoria trades the spine-tingling, bone-rattling terror of the previous work for a deeply personal black comedy. But is it funny?

Aster cannot be faulted for taking advantage of his success to make a bold attempt at something outside the hues and tones of his previous two films. And assuredly, the filmmaker’s commitment to exploring PTSD and examining looming family ghosts link “Beau Is Afraid” to the brand.

But reviews and reactions are expectedly split within groups of critics as well as fans. Ehrlich tags it as a “true original in spite of all that it borrows” (no disagreement there) while LaSalle sees “a movie that’s all talent and no discipline, which, in practice, is even worse than a movie that’s all discipline and no talent.” As for me, the burdensome length didn’t do the story any favors, despite Joaquin Phoenix’s reliability.

Phoenix’s title character joins a long line of emotionally paralyzed worriers tethered to apron strings forged of iron. Hot on the heels of “The Fabelmans,” “Beau Is Afraid” also breaks bread with, among others, “Portnoy’s Complaint,” “Psycho,” “Mother (1996),” the “Oedipus Wrecks” segment of “New York Stories,” and “My Winnipeg” (which tops Aster’s film with a fraction of the budget and an 80-minute clock).

We learn that Beau’s father died at the point of sexual climax during which his son was conceived – and on his wedding night, no less. Beau, who shares the same heart defect that claimed his dad’s life, has remained a virgin into middle age.

No doubt many Aster admirers will dig the film’s commitment to the surrealist blurring of the “real” (such as it is) and the impossible as Beau fulfills his promise to attend the funeral of his mother.

Our hapless protagonist is propelled from the dubious safety and shelter of his ratty, spider-infested apartment above porn shop Erectus Ejectus into an episodic odyssey fit for the imagination of Leopold Bloom.

Along the way, Aster tries out all manner of gags and humiliations, setting up motifs (testicular torment!) that will receive callbacks and payoffs once the narrative reaches its eventual destination.

I have no doubt that Aster enjoyed making “Beau Is Afraid” a lot more than I enjoyed watching it. And I did enjoy some of the cogs and gears if not the sum total of their assembled machinery.

When Aster tries his hand at staging a play in the manner of Wes Anderson’s many instances of glorious theatricals, the gorgeous design, complete with a reverential nod to “The Wizard of Oz,” breathes some life into the ordeal as a temporary distraction.

I know the big showdown with Patti LuPone is supposed to be the main event, but it is the preceding scene that makes one wish Parker Posey would have been around for much, much more. She is easily the highlight of the movie. 

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.edu Gerald Briggs, the Warren County Mississippi Fire/EMS chief, was at a festival in February 2020 when a local law enforcement officer asked him if he had heard about the explosion…

By Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu Dwight Herr interviewed his father, Julius E. Herr of Wishek, North Dakota, in June 1979. Dwight provided a transcription and donated the “Life Story of Julius E. Herr” to the Germans…

Saturday, March 1611 a.m.Downtown FargoWear something green and celebrate spring during Fargo-Moorhead’s premier parade. Thousands of spectators line the streets, so arrive early to snag a prime spot. This community celebration…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com When one googles “What traits are desirable in a new employee,” some of the first words that pop up “from sources around the web” include “communication,” “team player,”…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.comPoliticians could learn a lot by watching dung beetles work for a livingThe 400,000 species of beetles is the largest order of insects discovered on Planet Earth, so far. Insect researchers believe…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com Holiday wine shopping shouldn’t have to be complicated. But unfortunately it can cause unneeded anxiety due to an overabundance of choices. Don’t fret my friends, we once again have you covered…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.com In this land of hotdish and ham, the knoephla soup of German-Russian heritage seems to reign supreme. In my opinion though, the French have the superior soup. With a cheesy top layer, toasted baguette…

The Aquarium, 226 Broadway North upstairs, Downtown FargoFriday, December 8, 7:30-11pmDoors 7:30 pm // Music 8 pm21+ // $10 advance // $12 DOSOver two decades, Christmas songs have appeared throughout Owen Ashworth’s recorded…

Now playing at the Fargo Theatre.By Greg Carlson gregcarlson1@gmail.comPalme d’Or recipient “Anatomy of a Fall” is now enjoying an award-season victory tour, recently picking up Golden Globe wins for both screenplay and…

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the pursuit of knowledge has directed humankind to new horizons – the ocean depths, the infinite reach of space, and the hidden secrets of cells and microbes…or to Artificial Intelligence, which…

By John Showalterjohn.d.showalter@gmail.comHigh Plains Reader had the opportunity to interview two mysterious new game show hosts named Milt and Bradley Barker about an upcoming event they will be putting on at Brewhalla. What…

By Annie Prafckeannieprafcke@gmail.com AUSTIN, Texas – As a Chinese-American, connecting to my culture through food is essential, and no dish brings me back to my mother’s kitchen quite like hotdish. Yes, you heard me right –…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comNew Jamestown Brewery Serves up Local FlavorThere’s something delicious brewing out here on the prairie and it just so happens to be the newest brewery west of the Red River and east of the…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

JANUARY 19, 1967– MARCH 8, 2023 Brittney Leigh Goodman, 56, of Fargo, N.D., passed away unexpectedly at her home on March 8, 2023. Brittney was born January 19, 1967, to Ruth Wilson Pollock and Donald Ray Goodman, in Hardinsburg,…

By Faye Seidlerfayeseidler@gmail.com On the first day of the month I ask people to thank a journalist they know or someone who contributes to papers in some meaningful way. When I grew up, my best friend's father was a journalist…