Every night before I fall asleep, the same horrible image flashes before my eyes. Maybe you see it too. Do you want to see it? Are you sure? Okay, here goes:
You’ve seen it. I’ve cursed you. I’m sorry. This is the poster for Ari Aster’s new film Beau Is Afraid starring multiple Joaquin Phoenixes, as per the new poster released today.
I have no sense of the quality of Aster’s latest based on these images — its trailer is not out till next week — but here’s what I do have a sense of: let’s pack it up on digital de-aging. For one, we know what Joaquin Phoenix looked like as a young man, and it’s not whatever monstrous creation is being peddled to us here. “Oh, but Fran, that’s not Joaquin Phoenix, that’s Beau from Beau Is Afraid,” you’re saying in my @ replies even though I have people who I don’t follow muted. Okay, I’m not stupid, I’m aware of this, but every new entry in the world of digital de-aging is a horror upon horror on which my eyes are now forced to gaze. It is horrifying to look at here. It turned me off from seeing Alex Garland’s Men completely. It even looks stupid in The Irishman, a movie that is, by my count, a full-fledged masterpiece. I recall seeing Tron: Legacy on a snowy winter night in college, the sight of a de-aged Jeff Bridges making me audibly groan.
Perhaps the reason that digital de-aging has yet to take off is because the act of aging is a gift and God does not want us to flaunt technical prowess in lieu of the passage of time. Maybe it looks so shitty because the science is just not actually that good. Or maybe it’s just never going to work because the film and television industry needs to force young actors to step up so we don’t have the weird dearth of charisma that now plagues the 26-32 age range. It can’t all be Austin Butler all the time!! Or maybe it really is my fault that I can’t accept digital de-aging, that maybe I ought to be running my face through more and more face filters until I can grow — emotionally, intellectually, but not physically — enough to accept the sleep paralysis demon that is young Joaquin Phoenix into my heart.