*Not a ton to spoil here…
A coming-of-age story about the strength of family and the generational pursuit of the American dream.
“Sometimes kids at school say bad words about the Black kids.”
Growing up is notoriously described as hard, but is it really? Most of the time we just go to school, come home, dinner is cooked for us, activities are planned for us, and you usually cannot truly get in trouble. We also are naïve and do not see some of the things in the world that as we get older we notice a lot more. In ARMAGEDDON TIME James Gray tells us a story about his childhood and how the differences in people continue to stay the same over time.
As I said this story is based off Gray’s life as a Jewish kid in Queens who enjoys causing trouble at his public school. His avatar Paul is clearly smart, but is a kid and does not understand the consequences of his actions at all. When him and his friend Johnny, who is black, get caught smoking weed in the bathroom at school, Paul’s parents decide to take him out of public school and into private school. This causes Paul to have an internal crisis as to why different people get a certain level of treatment when others get seemingly thrown to the curve. Now, this takes place in the 80’s but we as a society of course are still dealing with this same situation, so it is interesting to see all the parallels.
We also get to see Paul’s relationship with his family and what I thought was cool is that Gray portrayed a normal Jewish household, but never had to specifically make it about being Jewish. They just ate their bagels and lox and acted like a normal Jewish family, which I really liked. It is easy to get sucked into those scenes because you have his parents played by Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong and his Grandpa played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Everyone is on top of their game also which makes for extremely exciting scenes.
On the technical end, I found it fascinating that Gray and DP Darius Khondji were able to film this digitally but make it look completely like Film. Khondji has filmed some of the best looking movies of the 21st century like OKJA, UNCUT GEMS, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, PANIC ROOM, and many others, so to see him continuing to innovate is impressive. I had not heard of the composer Christopher Spelman, but honestly I found the score to be unmemorable which semi makes sense, because this is not really a score driven film.
Stock Up – Jeremy Strong
He really has become one of the best actors in the world very quickly. After this performance he is going to pushing to enter my PFP Top Ten at the end of the year. He embodies a Jewish dad so well it is almost scary with his mannerisms and just the way he talks. There is a moment he simply just yells “behave” and it is absolutely hilarious. His final scene is devastating and I hope he just continue to give us stronger and stronger performances.
Stock Neutral – Anne Hathaway
Great as always here and I am starting to think if she is consistently one of the most reliable actors/movie stars we have these days.
Stock Neutral – James Gray
This is his version of ROMA, BELFAST, THE FABELMANS, and the rest of this wave of filmmakers creating stories based on their childhoods. You can feel his personality popping off the screen in every scene and with all the dialogue spoken. This is his story and for better or worse I am happy he pulled no punches in telling it. I do think visually it is a step down from his amazing AD ASTRA.
*A couple other tidbits
- Entemanns donuts were a stable in any Jewish Household.
- Anthony Hopkins gives a typical great performance, he just does not have to do a ton.
- Jaylin Webb who played Johnny was great and sympathetic the entire time.
- Jessica Chastain was perfect as Maryanne Trump, and I thought they weaved the Trump narrative in nicely without overpowering the movie with it.
I enjoyed this movie, it is a throwback to a simpler time and has something to say about society. I do wish I got even more time with the family, because I just had a great time in all of those scenes. I am happy with what we got though because we got a lot more insight into the background of a great filmmaker.
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