Posted at 8:30 a.m.
After two feature films – very successful – set in completely new universes for him, The Lost City of Z and Ad AstraJames Gray is back to the style that made him one of America’s most acclaimed independent filmmakers, upon his arrival with Little Odessa and The Yards.
This time, the director of Two Lovers (probably the most underrated feature of his career) draws on his own story to deliver his most personal film to date. Through the journey of his young alter ego, who discovers at the age of preadolescence how deeply divided American society is, James Gray explores at the same time the evolution of this social and political division, which now seems stuck in an impasse. .
The title of the film is a variation of the song by Willie Williams Armagideon Time, covered by The Clash. It also evokes a statement by Ronald Reagan dating back to 1980, the time in which the story is set. Then a candidate for the presidency, the latter declared that America was socially threatened with Armageddon…
The story follows the journey of a young boy, Paul (Banks Repeta), whose life changes when his parents (Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong) decide to enroll him in a private school, after he was caught smoking a joint with his friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb) in the public school bathroom he attends. This break allows the filmmaker to explore notions of white privilege. Johnny, a young African-American living in poverty with his grandmother, is obviously much more watched than his other classmates. Also, the speeches heard at the private establishment that Paul’s older brother already attends, given in particular by members of the Trump family (including Fred, Donald’s father), very influential in Queens, leave no doubt about the orientation desired by the elites of society for the years to come. This aspect is also the most interesting of the story, with, also, that evoking the privileged link that Paul maintains with his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins), patriarch of this Jewish family of Ukrainian descent who lived for a time in Liverpool. before immigrating to the United States.
Surprisingly, Armageddon Time (Armageddon time in French version), in the running for the Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival, does not achieve the expected evocative power overall. A bit as if James Gray had chosen a half-hearted approach, which makes his film ultimately lack a bit of brilliance.
Armageddon Time (VF: Armageddon time)
With Banks Repeta, Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins
1 h 55 Indoors
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Armageddon Times | The roots of social division