“Beau Is Afraid” officially opened in theaters nationwide this weekend, meaning that anyone who wants to get traumatized by Ari Aster’s latest descent into madness is free to do so. Critics have praised the movie for its unapologetically bold vision and refusal to pull punches in its portrayal of anxiety, and many have held it up as one of the high points of Aster’s career so far. But if there’s one thing that the film’s fans and detractors can agree on, it’s that it isn’t for the faint of heart. Joaquin Phoenix knows that better than anyone, so he took it upon himself to warn his fans about what not to do when they see it.
In a new interview with Fandango, Phoenix implored audiences to take care of their own mental health while watching the film. The famously intense actor said that he doesn’t think anyone should take hallucinogenic substances before seeing the movie — though he joked that he would be perversely curious about seeing the results if anyone was foolish enough to do so.
“I was told from someone in college that there was this college thread amongst friends, a challenge they were going to take mushrooms and go see this movie,” Phoenix said. “And I just wanted to make a public service announcement and say do not take mushrooms and go see this fucking movie… But if you do it, film yourself. But don’t do it!””
Phoenix added that, even after working on the movie for months and seeing how all of the scariest scenes were filmed, he still found himself getting viscerally anxious while watching the finished product.
“I was definitely squirming in my seat. First of all, I’m just laughing about the entire fucking movie,” he said. “There’s a couple of sequences where I’m just squirming – I mean, stuff that [Ari] did with the sound design, it was really great. It’s such a rich world, and there’s so many details to see in it. It is a hundred percent a movie that you feel. There’s so many rich, complex themes in this film, but it’s such a visceral experience to watch it. Then you leave, and when that feeling subsides, you start thinking about it.”