Beau Is Afraid (15, 179 minutes)
Verdict: Long and loopy
The American writer-director Ari Aster has made just three feature films, but already his name could be turned into a cinematic adjective: Aster-oid, perhaps, or Aster-isque.
His 2018 debut, Hereditary, is a mightily scary psychological horror film, in which Toni Collette's character is terrorised by her dead mother.
Then came his folk-horror triumph Midsommar (2019), in which Florence Pugh's character is left traumatised by the murder of her parents by her sister, who then killed herself.
And now we have Beau Is Afraid, in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a mentally ill man in thrall to his distant mother (that's distant both geographically and emotionally). What all this dysfunction tells us about Aster's own background, I wouldn't like to say. Maybe nothing. But he certainly seems to view families as the root of all internal misery.
His latest exploration of that misery is divided into four distinct acts, lasting a whisker under three gruelling hours.
In the first act, we find Beau (Phoenix) living a precarious existence in an urban hellhole, populated by derelicts and crazies
It is a bravura performance, sure enough, but also somehow showy: so extravagantly committed that you can practically see him grasping for another Oscar
In the first act, we find Beau (Phoenix) living a precarious existence in an urban hellhole, populated by derelicts and crazies.
He seems almost sane by comparison. But his paranoia mounts, to the point where it is hard to know whether his terrible misadventures are actual, or merely inside his own head.
In a way Aster mines the same seam as Florian Zeller in his acclaimed 2020 film The Father, for which Anthony Hopkins won a Best Actor Academy Award. He gives us a portrait of mental instability from within, and I expect Phoenix, too, will be hyped as an awards contender.
It is a bravura performance, sure enough, but also somehow showy: so extravagantly committed that you can practically see him grasping for another Oscar, having bagged one the last time he played a troubled man trapped in an urban nightmare, in the superior Joker (2019).
CLASSIC FILM ON TV: GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Erase the taste of the BBC's controversial new adaptation of Dickens's classic with David Lean's 1946 Oscar-winning version, starring John Mills as Pip, and Alec Guinness.
Tomorrow, 1pm, BBC Two.
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Beau's day really starts to go downhill when his keys and luggage are stolen from outside his sleazy apartment, which means he can't get to the airport for a flight to visit his mother (Patti LuPone).
That kicks off a distressing chain of events, ending with him being stabbed by a lunatic and, as if that weren't enough, run over by a truck.
Act two begins with Beau waking up in the care of a kindly couple, Grace (Amy Ryan) and Roger (Nathan Lane). They have taken him into their home where she in particular makes him a surrogate for her own son, a soldier killed in combat.
But he is treated with hostility both by their daughter Toni (Kylie Rogers) and another house guest, Jeeves (Denis Menochet), a PTSD- ravaged army veteran.
Whether this fellow is called Jeeves as an ironic reference to the PG Wodehouse character isn't clear. If he is, then it's a joke that doesn't work, very much like the film's third and strangest act, when Beau, after things go dreadfully wrong and Grace turns on him, legs it into a nearby forest with Jeeves in murderous pursuit.
This time he finds sanctuary with a troupe of travelling actors, but before long we have been pitched into a parallel, partly-animated narrative, in which Beau is an ageing family man long separated from his wife and two sons.
Again, this is evidently a manifestation of his own mind playing tricks. But really the trick is on us, forced to endure Aster's self-indulgence in a film so long and loopy that the final act, in which Beau has sex with a childhood friend, is reunited with his cruel, controlling mother even though — spoiler alert! — she has been decapitated by a falling chandelier, and encounters monsters in the attic, comes as a welcome relief from the proper weirdness.
Like Beau in the attic, I couldn't wait to get out.
Yes Officer, my name really IS James Bond…
The Other Fellow (15, 80 mins)
Verdict: Bond is back
Back in 1952, Ian Fleming chose to call his hero James Bond because he wanted 'a really flat, quiet name'.
He plucked it from his own bookshelf. The original James Bond was the author of Birds Of The West Indies, Fleming's 'bible' at his Goldeneye residence in Jamaica, who was none too thrilled to discover his name had been stolen.
That miffed ornithologist is just one of the many real life men who can honestly state 'The name is Bond, James Bond.'
Apparently half of the world's population has seen a 007 movie.
This jolly clever little documentary explores the impact that's had on their lives.
It may sound like a slight premise, but Australian filmmaker Matthew Bauer deftly swerves it in surprising, thoughtful and occasionally touching directions.
Most of the JBs agree on two things: it's a blessing and a curse. A gift for chatting up girls; not so great when the police pull you over and assume you're taking the mickey.
At a mere hour and 20 minutes long, The Other Fellow never outstays its welcome and ultimately proves more memorable (and certainly more original) than many big screen 007 outings.
By Larushka Ivan-Zadeh
If you've caught any of the previous nine instalments, you’ll know what to expect from Fast X (12, 131 mins, ★★): cars, explosions, more cars, zero grasp on reality and far too much blithering on about ‘family’.
This is the continuing, evermore ludicrous, saga of illegal street-racer turned international government agent and stubborn refuser-of-sleeves Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)
This is supposedly part one of Dom’s farewell and, entertainment-wise, it certainly doesn’t stint on the action
Only a splendid new villain (Jason Momoa) seems to be having any real fun. Luckily, he’s fabulous
Yes, this is the continuing, evermore ludicrous, saga of illegal street-racer turned international government agent and stubborn refuser-of-sleeves Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel).
There’s no point in attempting to tell you the plot, since this franchise lost it the moment they opted to send a car into space in Fast & Furious 9.
This is supposedly part one of Dom’s farewell and, entertainment-wise, it certainly doesn’t stint on the action.
Suspense or emotional investment, however, are feeling the pinch. The main aim seems to be to crowbar in as many A-list stars as possible: Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson — it’s more like a Vanity Fair party than a movie — yet only a splendid new villain (Jason Momoa) seems to be having any real fun. Luckily, he’s fabulous.
For more than 50 years, Judy Blume’s coming-of-age books about the intimate tribulations of puberty have provided bosom buddies for girls fretting about first kisses, first periods and first bras (and when they’ll finally grow something to fill them).
So it was a wise idea to re-angle this long-awaited movie version of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (PG, 106 mins, ★★★★), her 1970 bestseller, in a nostalgic manner that triggers cross-generational appeal. This means while our heroine may still be 11-year-old Margaret (an adorably sincere Abby Ryder Fortson), it’s veteran actress Kathy Bates who all but steals the show as her brash, relatably ‘difficult’ Jewish granny.
This means while our heroine may still be 11-year-old Margaret (an adorably sincere Abby Ryder Fortson), it’s veteran actress Kathy Bates who all but steals the show
And Rachel McAdams glows in every scene as Margaret’s well-intentioned mother.
Basically, the casting is pitch perfect in this intelligent adaptation that gently balances humour with heart.
The 11 year-olds actually look like real 11-year-olds, rather than the Hollywood-filter variety.
Where once Blume’s books drew censorship in religiously conservative America, they now seem blissfully tame, even innocent, compared to the scary new terrain today’s TikTok tweens are facing.
His maternal grandfather, Meyer Dunetz, was Russian Jewish and his maternal grandmother, Margit Lefkowitz, was Hungarian Jewish; they were both Ashkenazi Jews who resided in New York City. Phoenix's parents met when his mother was hitchhiking in California and got married less than a year after meeting.How old is Joaquin Phoenix Joker? › Is Joaquin Phoenix from Puerto Rico? ›
Joaquin Phoenix, in full Joaquin Rafael Phoenix, original name Joaquin Rafael Bottom, (born October 28, 1974, San Juan, Puerto Rico), American actor who was regarded as one of the most talented actors of his generation, known for completely immersing himself in the characters he played.Who is Joaquin Phoenix's family? ›