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Armageddon Time at Marcus Point Cinema
November 5 @ 3:30 pm - November 11 @ 12:45 pm$5.28 – $13.72
Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb) and Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) both smile while running through a tunnel under a bridge in a park.
In James Gray’s Armageddon Time (2022), assimilation comes with the crushing weight of responsibility that can never really be lived up to. Based on Gray’s own adolescence in 1980 New York City, his semi-fictionalized analogue Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) is a daydreaming, quietly defiant Jewish sixth grader, who strikes up a friendship with Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb), a black student repeating the grade. When both are singled out as troublemakers by their teacher Mr. Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk), their relationship awakens Paul to his fishbowl of privilege, as Johnny continually bears a greater brunt of the consequences for their shared schemes.
Paul is more than a little naive of the true circumstances of Johnny’s problems at home (left to fend for himself most of the time, living with his grandmother who has dementia). For better or worse, the film stands as Gray’s admission of guilt for the implications of actions he once didn’t understand. The film’s steady perspective and its lessons are centered more on Paul than Johnny, who isn’t quite as fleshed out. Gray sticks to what he knows, even as he acknowledges the pain it caused back then.
Armageddon Time really excels in showcasing the gap between Paul and Johnny’s family support networks, however flawed they may be. Paul’s mother Esther (Anne Hathaway), father Irving (Jeremy Strong) and especially his grandfather Aaron Rabinowitz (Anthony Hopkins) are exasperated by his artistic dreams, his inattention in school, and friendship with Johnny, often giving him conflicting advice. But they clearly care, even in their lack of understanding him.
Paul truly connects with his grandfather who tells him to “be a mensch” and stick up for the less privileged, while also paying to take him out of the public school to place him in the private school that his older brother Ted (Ryan Sell) attends. There Paul encounters Fred Trump (John Diehl) and Maryanne Trump (Jessica Chastain), the latter who gives a speech extolling the virtues of the Reaganite bootstrapping. While Paul’s family hates Reagan, they sincerely believe his mixing with this crowd of elitists will ensure their survival. To twist the old Carlin adage, it’s a big club, and you better try your damndest to get in it.
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