A-Listers Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong have appeared at the photo call of Armageddon Time to promote James Gray’s latest flick Armageddon time.
Armageddon Time is a 2022 American coming-of-age drama film written, directed, and produced by James Gray. The film stars Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, and Anthony Hopkins. Inspired by Gray’s childhood experiences, the story follows a young Jewish-American boy who befriends an African-American classmate and begins to struggle with expectations from his family and growing up in a world of privilege, inequality and prejudice. It was shot in New Jersey and in Fresh Meadows, Queens, New York where the director James Gray grew up with cinematographer Darius Khondji.
The film is set in 1980 Queens, New York City, on his first day in sixth grade, Jewish-American Paul Graff becomes friends with a rebellious African-American classmate named Johnny. Johnny was held back by a year and gets harsher treatment from their teacher when they both joke around in class. Paul often disassociates from his schoolwork and draws pictures instead.
Paul lives with his financially stable family of Jewish heritage. He is close with his maternal grandfather Aaron Rabinowitz, who encourages him to pursue his aspirations of becoming an artist. His well-meaning but strict parents, Esther and Irving, are less convinced by Paul’s career prospects to be an artist. At night, Aaron tells Paul the story of how Aaron’s mother escaped antisemitic persecution in Ukraine, fleeing to London before eventually immigrating to the United States with Aaron and her British husband.
One day, Paul and Johnny are caught smoking a joint in the restrooms, unaware that it’s an illegal drug. Furious, Esther forces Irving into beating Paul as punishment. In the hope that he becomes more disciplined, Paul is sent to the Forest Manor Prep private school by his parents, where his older brother Ted is studying. Meanwhile, Johnny stops going to public school following Paul’s expulsion.
Forest Manor is financially supported by famous businessman Fred Trump, who also supports Ronald Reagan in the impending US presidential election. Many of the students are also Reagan supporters. On Paul’s first day, Fred’s daughter Maryanne, one of the school’s famous alumni, delivers a speech to the students about working to earn their success. Paul sees the school’s advantages over his previous schooling but still doesn’t feel welcome at the school. Paul is also unnerved by racist comments from other students when Johnny meets with him during playtime outdoors. Johnny also begins living in secret at Paul’s clubhouse, having nowhere to go other than living with his sick grandmother, where foster system workers searching for Johnny have begun to visit regularly.
While playing at the park on the weekend, Paul tells Aaron of his struggles at school and how he does nothing when he witnesses racism from the other students. Aaron encourages Paul to stand up against prejudice when he sees it; reminding Paul that while antisemitism still covertly persists, he and his family still have the privilege of being white. Shortly after, Aaron dies of bone cancer, with the family mourning his loss.
Tired of living under high expectations from family and school, as well as the unfair treatment of Johnny, Paul convinces Johnny of his plan to steal a computer from school and sell it for money, so they can run away together. Although they successfully steal the computer, they are arrested by the police for trying to sell it. While being interrogated, Paul confesses that it was all his plan, to protect Johnny. However, knowing that he has no options in life, Johnny takes the blame to let Paul go, much to Paul’s dismay. Paul and Johnny bid farewell, as Irving arrives to take him home with no consequences due to an officer being an old friend of Irving’s. At home, Irving confesses to Paul that he is sympathetic to his frustration with America’s unfair racial inequality, but tells him that they need to survive to have a good life. The two agree to not tell Esther what happened, as she is still mourning the loss of her father.
Days later, the Graff family are disappointed by Reagan’s victory in the election, while Paul is focused on schoolwork. During a Thanksgiving dance at school, Fred Trump addresses the students, expressing hope that they’ll become the next successful elite. A disillusioned Paul leaves the event during the speech.
The film stars Anne Hathaway as Esther Graff, Jeremy Strong as Irving Graff, Jaylin Webb as Johnny Davis, Anthony Hopkins as Aaron Rabinowitz, Tovah Feldshuh as Mickey Rabinowitz, and John Diehl as Fred Trump.
‘Armageddon Time’, Gray’s eighth feature, marks a break from most of what he has done before. It’s a more personal project for Gray.
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