By Diego Batlle, from Cannes
Published on 05-19-2022
Director of Little Odessa, The betrayal, The owners of the night, The lovers, The Immigrant, Z: The lost city Y Ad Astra: Towards the Stars he dives into his autobiography when he was 11 years old.
Armageddon Time (United States/2022). Script and direction: James Gray. Cast: Repeta Banks, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins. Photography: Darius Khonji. Editing: Scott Morris. Duration: 115 minutes.James Gray was born in 1969 into a Jewish family in New York. He was 11 years old in 1980 and that is the same age he is in the fiction of Armageddon Time Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), who lives with his parents (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong), his lovable grandfather (remarkable contribution from Anthony Hopkins) and his older brother in the Queens area.
Paul attends a public school where nothing seems to go right for him, but where his passion for drawing flourishes. His relationship with the teachers and most of his classmates is not good, but he does hook up with Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb), a black boy with a much more complex present than his. When the parents consider that he needs “more rigor” they will transfer him to a private school. And things, of course, will be even worse.
We are facing a modest autobiography (perhaps too modest, at times with the risk of falling into a certain triteness) with many of the elements of the coming-of-age with bullying, friendships, Jewish traditions, family violence (Strong’s disturbing character, the Kendall Roy’s Succession) and various initiation rituals towards adulthood.
Everything is very careful, accurate and at times even lovable and sensitive in this description of the beginnings of the Reagan era in the ’80s, but one demands more than a correct film from a screenwriter and narrator of Gray’s talent, who here shows at times some elements that refer to the cinema of Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson.
As a curiosity, the film tangentially addresses the advent of the Trump family in the universe of New York power and, in this field, none other than Jessica Chastain appears in a cameo as Maryanne Trump, the sister of Donald himself. One of the many attractions of a film that, although it is a little below previous expectations, does not stop giving a story that goes from the endearing to the bleak, and vice versa.
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