As the credits of "Armageddon Time" began to roll, I noticed a man sitting in front of me lean over to the couple beside him. He asked them if that was it, as he didn't understand what the movie was trying to say and thought there had to be more to it. They responded "that was our childhood", as if having just watched a memory from their childhoods in the 80s. The man then asked them if they missed that time. They swiftly responded with a "Not at all". I bring this up because, as someone who didn't grow up in the 80s, this movie showed me why that couple said "not at all". So many coming-of-age films that take place in the 70s, 80s or 90s eras usually glorify the times they take place in with lots of nostalgic feelings from the writers and directors behind them. This movie was one of the first that told this type of story without using a charming, nostalgic lens, and it was actually quite refreshing. James Gray doesn't seem very pleased with the past: he doesn't seem pleased with his own past.
Much like what Cameron Crowe did with "Almost Famous" this film uses elements from Gray's own childhood, however this film is not as nostalgic as Crowe's, and very clearly shows decisions his childhood self made that he is not very proud of. Some may label this a "white guilt" film, which I agree with, and I think this emboldens the film's message and clearly lays out what Gray is trying to do. The film deals with themes of inequality (mainly racial inequality) as well as morality and the generational pursuit of the so-called "American Dream". It is a very matter-of-fact look at this 12 year old boy's life in the 80s as he navigates his life, dreams, school, family and his friendship with a black boy. I felt very absorbed in the drama of his life, and there was very little sensationalism about it. It is more James Grey reflecting on his childhood and the nature of growing up in the 80s. The plot can meander at times, but the most fascinating element that kept me engaged was this film's dissection of white privilege. The friendship between Paul and the black boy in his class, Johnny, makes Paul realize that even though both of them are troublemakers, one of them will always face greater consequences. The film doesn't shy away from this, and also draws parallels between the rampant republicanism of the Reagan era and modern politics, even featuring a scene with Fred and Mary Trump. These two preach that all the success you have in life is due to hard work and determination, and that handouts are essentially meaningless, and at the same time we see clear examples in this movie of white people leveraging their power and wealth to make sure that each other maintains an advantage. This movie is indeed a takedown of white privilege, and it is pretty direct and damning while not feeling forced, James Gray just hits the nail right on the head.
The characters in the film are all quite complex in their own ways, and while a lot of the credit does have to go to the writing, it is the acting that makes them all stand out. Banks Repeat is wonderfully cast as Paul, and it reminds me of the casting of Elsie Fisher in "Eighth Grade", casting a child actor who may not be the most well-polished or well-trained, but instead really felt believable as a misfit, allowing the dialogue and delivery to feel authentic to how people at that age communicate. He was really great in this role! Anne Hathaway is good here too - I wouldn't say she's doing anything that will surprise anyone who has seen her work before. Same goes for Anthony Hopkins, but at least his role is a lot more weighty. Still feels like he could do this performance in his sleep though! The one who really surprised me (probably because I haven't seen "Succession") was Jeremy Strong, as he initially comes across as a stern, emotionally distant father, but later in the film he has scenes where the emotions start to come through the cracks. There is one particularly charming scene with him too where he's clanging and dancing around trying to wake up his kids in the morning. Strong was really allowed to showcase such a range. The characters were all very interesting, but there were points I wished the script explored the family dynamics/relationships a bit more.
There are many instances with the script that I wish it took a little more time to go into greater depth, and doesn't go as deep into some of the themes as much as I would have liked it to. Gray lets the plot meander along, and it did feel like without the thematic elements this movie would not be as strong as it is. This is after all a pretty standard drama film, and I'm somewhat doubtful of its awards chances. It is really good, but overall nothing too crazy. Heck, I only liked it this much after thinking about it for a while after watching it, when I initially finished it I was a little more lukewarm on the film. I have felt mixed about most of Gray's films, but I think I liked this one most out of all of them. It feels like an old school Hollywood coming of age story, and really does feel like this is from Gray's childhood. It feels like you are reading an autobiographical book at times, and there are pros and cons to that. One con being it does feel a little like a montage film at times, as it jumps from relationship to relationship and never dives too deeply into each aspect. This will work for some people, it did for me, and for some it won't, but regardless it will leave you feeling like it was a tad undercooked at times. But I thought it was very worth the watch! I don't think it will be up for too many awards this year, it is a pretty standard drama and it isn't working for many people, but it is a good movie to me at least!
Action / Drama
Action / Drama
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A deeply personal coming-of-age story about the strength of family and the generational pursuit of the American Dream.
Uploaded by: FREEMAN
November 22, 2022 at 09:42 AM