ARMAGEDDON TIME – A Review by Cynthia Flores

ARMAGEDDON TIME – A Review by Cynthia Flores

This film was written and directed by James Gray. He did some fantastic films when he was young, like 1994’s Little Odessa and The Yards in 2000. Since then, he has stayed busy with big-budget vast vista pictures like The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra. This film brings him back to where he started—telling a deeply personal story. Armageddon Time is about the strength of family, the complexity of friendship, and the generational pursuit of the American Dream.  

Armageddon Time took place in 1980. It tells the story of the Graff family. There is the stoic and volatile father Irving (Jeremy Strong) and his head of the PTA wife Esther (Anne Hathaway). They have two sons. Ted (Ryan Sell) is in an expensive private school while his younger artistic brother Paul (Banks Repeta) attends public school. In sixth grade, Paul meets and becomes best friends with Johnny (Jaylin Webb). Johnny is an older kid that has been held back and forced to repeat sixth grade. They are both singled out as troublemakers by their hateful teacher Mr. Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk).  

Also part of the Graff family gatherings were the grandparents, Aaron (Anthony Hopkins) and Mickey Rabinowitz (Tovah Feldshuh), Aunt Ruth (Marcia Haufrecht), and Uncle Louis (Teddy Coluca). The loud Jewish family eats together and shares stories of how they grew up and why they left Europe. 

The film revolves around Paul and his coming of age. The relationship between Paul and Grandpa is strong and pivotal to the person Paul wants to become. He can be a handful for his mom, and you don’t want to see how his father sometimes deals with him. But his loving Grandpa is always there to calm him down and impart some of his hard-won wisdom. 

As Paul and Johnny get into more trouble at school, it is decided that he will join his brother at the uber-conservative private school where people like a young Donald Trump were raised. All this while Johnny dodges welfare agents that want to remove him from his ailing grandmother’s home. Their friendship is tested, and both are changed as a result. Ultimately, Paul must decide what he stands for and what he is willing to walk away from.

When asked why he chose to make this film, James Gray is quoted as saying:

“History and myth always begin in the microcosm of the personal. With Armageddon Time, I strove to make the most intimate and clear-eyed movie I possibly could. I wanted to liberate the story from the trappings of genre and to remove any barriers to sincerity. Above all, I wanted to be truthful. I remember that I wrote four words on a piece of cardboard, taped to the camera as my constant reminder; ‘Love. Warmth. Humor. Loss’. And in this film, loss took on many different forms.” 

The cinematography of Darius Khondji is lush and sets the tone for this 80s story. With some powerhouse moments of brilliant acting from Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong as the beleaguered parents dealing with their willful and often unlikable son, Paul, Armageddon Time should be a lock for a great film. You expect the best when you have the iconic Sir Anthony Hopkins in the cast. Unfortunately, the film is uneven, and the powerful moments just explode on the screen instead of happening organically. I have to lay the blame on the writer/director. Perhaps this story was too personal for him to see the film’s issues.  

I give Armageddon Time 3-stars. It’s a fantastic cast that has moments of greatness. But, unfortunately, the moments are not held together consistently. Still, it warrants a viewing if you are a fan of any of the stars in this film.

 

Directed by: James Gray

Written by: James Gray

Rated: R

Selig Rating: 3 Stars

Running Time: 1h 55min

Drama

Wide Release: November 4th only in Theaters 

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Anthony Hopkins, Tovah Feldshuh

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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