LOS ANGELES, April 10 (UPI) — Descendant writer, director and columnist Ari Astaire opens his screens to the horrors that can befall anyone in "Afraid Handsome," in theaters Friday. Astaire finds surprising new ways to convey horror in ordinary situations.
Bo (Joaquin Phoenix) tries to visit his mother when a conspiracy gets in the way. Losing her house keys turns into stabbings, kickbacks, and anything else that gets in her way.
The first few scenes in and around Beau's apartment show the indifference of society. He meets many homeless people, some dead on the street, notaries and thieves who only threaten to break into his house.
Because he's not safe in his apartment either. The manager warns of a security threat, gunshots and screams are heard outside, and someone very hostile blames Bo for his neighbor's loud music.
Bo is on some anti-anxiety meds, but the instructions and side effects of the pills only suggest that Bo has other things to worry about. Astra represents the overwhelming sense of danger that highly sensitive people can feel in the face of all threats, real and imagined.
Astaire leaves it up to the viewer to interpret whether some of Beau's fears are valid or just an overreaction that he has concocted. After Bo explores the environment, the real world becomes a real obstacle for potential threats.
Everything Bo encounters is something that exists in our world, but the cameras and editing heighten its intrusion. A naked man with a knife would be menacing in even the most naked cinema, but that's one of Bo's minor problems.
Because he wanders from situation to situation like the protagonist of a story like "Alice in Wonderland" or "Odyssey" . The difference is that Bo just wants to be left alone and the world keeps getting in his way.
After he's stabbed, a lovely couple, Roger (Nathan Lane) and Grace (Amy Ryan), tend to his wounds and leave him home to recover. Problem is, they're now the other end of Bo's dangerous apartment.
Roger and Grace tried so hard to save people that Bo got trapped there. A medical necessity prevents the trip, but Grace and Roger's incredible kindness prevents Bo from going alone without thanking them for their help.
Because he stays in these places until they become dangerous for him too. Roger and Grace have a daughter, Toni (Kylie Rogers), and are cared for by veteran Jeeves (Dennis Menachet), who wreaks havoc in a seemingly idyllic home.
Some of Bo's encounters are more surreal than others. Drama groups envelop Beau in sequences that blend scenery and animation, while locations like Grace and Roger's home create a sense of unease with cryptic messages and harrowing time travel.
Throughout the film, each scene is carefully crafted to reveal something about direction or thought. This should be the norm for any film, but it's quite rare to see a director like Astaire execute his craft with such mastery.
Beau a Fear has an objective story and metaphors that can spark analysis and conversation long after the three-hour epic is over. Both aspects are valuable experiences. and those who embrace both will be rewarded exponentially.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012, and a member of the Critics' Choice Association since 2023. Learn more about his work in entertainment.