Wednesday, October 4, 2023


May 21, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

There is no reason for James Gray to have set his semi-autobiographical movie Armageddon Time¬†in 1980 other than the fact that it’s about a time in the life of an 11-year-old boy in Flushing, Queens, New York and Gray himself was 11, growing up in Flushing in 1980. Yes, there are references to Ronald Reagan’s TV interview with fundamentalist preacher Jim Bakker in which he commented that “we may be the generation that sees Armageddon,” but that generation has survived relatively unscathed, and the current generation may easily identify with the characters and societal injustices depicted in the movie. Wrote David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter, it’s a “story about a past reflective of other pasts before it, but also tethered very much to our present.” A loving father who, outraged by his son’s misbehavior, nevertheless beats him unmercifully? Check. Liberal Jews who have experienced anti-Semitism engaging in racist chatter? Check. The Trump family asserting its values? Check. Kids who mock their stuffy teachers? Check. White privilege? Check. Injustice? Check and double-check. It’s not Armaggedon time for the kid, played sensitively and with subtle nuances by Banks Repeta, who has a close relationship with his maternal grandfather, played by Anthony Hopkins. While he dreams of becoming an artist, those around him do all they can to discourage him, except grandpa, who buys him a set of oil paints and encourages him to “be bold.” However, the nuances of Gray’s script may not become apparent to many viewers. When the kid gets away with a crime while his accomplice Johnny, who is black, played by Jaylin Webb, does not, the father lectures him on his racial advantage and insists that he do nothing to help his friend. “Some people,” he says, “get a raw deal.” It’s a powerful lecture, and although it’s meant to be abhorrent, there will certainly be many in the audience who will shake their heads in agreement.¬† “We’re supposed to feel bad about that,” wrote Owen Gleiberman in Variety, “Yet as a filmmaker, Gray wants to have his compassion and eat it too.” However, at a news conference following the press screening for his movie, Gray remarked, “I actually have no idea how to solve issues of inequality, of class. You have to just put it out in front of the audience and hope that they can make connections for themselves.”