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Audience Reactions to ‘Beau Is Afraid’ Are as Surreal as the Movie Itself

Grace screams in anger, with blue paint on her mouth, while kneeling on the floor. Still from Beau is Afraid.

Beau is Afraid, Ari Aster’s surrealist epic about an anxious man trying to get home to visit his mother, came out in a limited release last week. Its wide release isn’t until this Friday, but audiences are already having some strong reactions to it.

In my review, I gave Beau is Afraid a 3/5. It has some significant problems, but overall it’s worth a watch, and the allegorical feel of the movie will leave you mulling over Beau’s various phobias and misadventures. I was intensely curious to find out what other people would think of it, but I wasn’t expecting to find out that moviegoers were literally yelling at the screen.

Oh my. And that’s not the only anecdote about people leaving the theater absolutely furious.

Other people didn’t necessarily yell in the theater, but got very angry nonetheless.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised that it’s specifically making men so angry. It’s a story all about manhood! Maybe it touches on some uncomfortable truths? Some psychological issues men would prefer to keep locked inside the attic?

So what is it that’s making people so angry? This paragraph has some spoilers, so skip it if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Could it be the experimental storytelling, in which several distinct stories are strung together into a three-hour-long odyssey? Could it be the surrealism, which has Beau running in terror from a giant killer penis near the end of the movie? Could it be Beau’s timid, skittish nature, which is the antithesis of what a lot of men think they’re supposed to be? Or is everyone just upset that Bill Hader only got a five-second cameo?

Of course, it looks like we’re only hearing about the most extreme reactions to the film. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critic and audience scores are currently not as far apart as one might think, with a critical score of 75% and an audience score of 64%.

Honestly, A24 couldn’t ask for better publicity. People online are saying that all the weird, outsized reactions are making them want to see the movie more.

Sometimes, even if a movie isn’t perfect, you have to defend it. What are we, as a culture, without weird and messy art that makes us uncomfortable?

(featured image: A24)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at