Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid is one of the year’s most talked about financial flops. Aster is still disappointed in how the film was received.
Much was said and written about Beau Is Afraid, Ari Aster’s three-hour epic in which Joaquin Phoenix’s Beau goes on a bizarre, mind-boggling journey to visit his mother, played by the formidable Patti Lupone.
We’ll just say this: the film must be experienced. Not just watched, but chewed over and digested in due time.
In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Aster has been chatting about the film’s reception. A24, the prolific studio behind Aster’s film, spent a whopping $35 million on it – a sum the company never had a chance of making back. Beau Is Afraid ended up grossing only $10 million, making it a certified financial flop.
“I always knew the film was going to be polarising,” Aster said, “and it’s designed to be divisive. The film shape-shifts a lot, and the film has something of hostility toward traditional narrative structure.”
The Midsommar-director clearly knew what he was doing, to the point of admitting his creative choices would always prove alienating to some audiences.
“There were points in the making of the film, in the editing of the film, where there was a line in the ground—I cross this line, I’m making a decision to preserve the integrity of what this film is at the risk of losing a chunk of the audience.”
Aster also complimented A24 for allowing him the creative freedom to execute his (lengthy) vision. The director also noted there is still plenty of things for people to discover hidden in the film.
“One thing that excites me about Beau is that there are certain things that I buried in that film that still haven’t been talked about, and I was kind of disappointed by the way people were maybe engaging with the film on first release because it was very verdict based like, ‘Well, it doesn’t all work.’ It’s like, ‘Well, wait, what doesn’t work?’ The film is an experiment in so many ways. Even what he finds up in that attic is a very specific provocation. I’m deliberately blowing up the whole film. People talked about it as a let-down when clearly—yeah, that’s the joke! Interpret this, right?”
Aster described the process of making a film like Beau Is Afraid as “pulling yourself inside out”, which sounds positively disgusting, but whatever works, eh? Aster also noted that Beau Is Afraid is his favourite film of his own, ahead of acclaimed horror works Hereditary and Midsommar.
Aster is currently gearing up to make his next film, which is reportedly a western called Eddington, set during the pandemic. The director is teaming up with A24 again and according to Variety, Phoenix may star in it.