Beau Is Afraid director Ari Aster was disappointed by the reaction to the film, but hopes audiences will come to appreciate it in future.
After the successes of Hereditary and Midsommar, A24 was keen to pump up the budget for Ari Aster’s third movie. Unfortunately, Beau Is Afraid flopped at the box office with just $11 million worldwide on a $35 million budget. The film also proved to be quite divisive, and Ari Aster shared his thoughts on why Beau Is Afraid just didn’t connect with audiences.
“The film ends on a theater just very gradually emptying out over the credits, with a very indifferent audience,” Ari Aster told Vanity Fair. “I wasn’t quite ready for just how prophetic that ending was going to be.” However, Aster hopes that the future will be kind to Beau Is Afraid, as there are still many elements he buried in the story that haven’t been discussed.
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 letdown when clearly — yeah, that’s the joke! Interpret this, right?
The reaction to Beau Is Afraid proved to be frustrating for Ari Aster, because “you take the time to put them there and you wonder who’s going to catch them. When you make a film like this, it feels in some ways like you’re just pulling yourself inside out. With this film especially as it came out, I felt very protective of it. I’ve said this before, but it’s absolutely my favorite of my own films and I think the furthest I’ve been able to go.“
Aster said that he has fantasized about an alternate universe where audiences would have been excited to go to the theater “in order to determine how they felt themselves, as opposed to just people hearing, ‘Oh, the response is all over the board, so I’m not going to bother.’” He added that “the film will always be polarizing, but I just hope that people keep finding it.“
The movie gave our own Chris Bumbray plenty to think about. “If the movie is so well cast and brilliantly made, why isn’t it a masterpiece?” Bumbray wrote. “Aster is trying to make his David Lynch movie here, and while it chugs along nicely for a good hour or two, the last act is deadly. It begins to overstay its welcome, but in many ways, this feels like a calculation by Aster, as I’m not sure he even wants you to like the last part of the movie. Choices are made that seem like a deliberate effort to send people storming out of the theater, and indeed this seems bound to be one of those movies that nabs an F-CinemaScore, although I think it’s a distinction all involved will wear proudly. It isn’t easy to review, as it’s such a full meal that, even a week after seeing it, I’m still utterly baffled by it.” Bumbray ended his review by saying, “I reserve the right to come back to this review and adjust it to a 10 or a zero in the years to come.“