Movie Review: Armageddon Time | Pittsburgh Magazine

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PHOTO @ FOCUS FEATURES

Hollywood, at the moment, is very fond of directors who reflect on their childhood memories.

I can’t understand why.

“Armageddon Time”, by director James Gray, is a novel about the filmmaker’s upbringing in Queens. (Apparently we’re even letting small-time directors do that now.) Steven Spielberg will do the same in a few weeks, with “The Fablemans,” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” won an Oscar for screenplay there. just one year old. at a ceremony where another melancholy memoir, Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘The Hand of God’, was up for best international feature film.

So: Who, precisely, claimed all these celebrations of a very particular nostalgia?

“Armageddon Time” is by no means a bad movie; it’s compelling throughout, with excellent performance. Michael Banks Repeta plays Paul, Gray’s replacement, and is a compact package of charisma; Anthony Hopkins, as Paul’s beloved grandfather, gives a performance nearly as good as any in his vast filmography.

Paul’s early life—like, we assume, the director’s—exists on the borderline of lower and middle class. His older brother (Ryan Sell), a top student, attends a private school; Paul went to a public school that confuses his creativity with distraction. More importantly, the older brother has entered a world of privilege (the school is tied to the Trump family, a real detail in Gray’s life), while Paul’s neighbors are wary of the increasingly public school system. more diverse.

This fight against race is central to “Armageddon Time,” as Paul befriends older black student Johnny (Jaylin Webb), despite occasional racism from his parents (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong). In this, however, the film begins to show its main weakness: it is not about race but rather about being adjacent to it. Paul learns harsh and brutal lessons from how others treat Johnny, but that’s not Johnny’s story, so the real impacts of racism mostly happen off-screen.

The pattern continues; Paul’s grandparents tell him that they were rejected and cast out for their religion, but Paul can only listen. The family raises eyebrows at the neocon movement ushering Reagan into the White House — this, with Trump ties, looks like a half-baked attempt at current relevance — but none of these scenes interact in any meaningful way with the actual narrative. .

Paul learns lessons and changes, of course, but always as an observer – never as one who is truly and deeply affected. And at the end of the movie, he just walks out of a scene and walks down the street, like he and the movie are tired and decided to go home.

Does it have an atmosphere? Sure. Are its performers carrying the weight? Absolutely. But is it worth seeing – and is there an explanation for why these chaotic stories keep happening?

No.

My rating: 5/10

“Armageddon Time” is now playing in theaters.

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