Dir: James Gray | Cast: Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, Domenick Lombardozzi | US Thriller, 115′
Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway star in this coming of age story about growing up in Queens in the 1980s, But they cannot save a rather bland, sentimental drama that feels overlong and underwhelming, competing here in the main competition line-up here in Cannes.
Gray is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival. In fact the American director has been nominated four times for the coveted Palme d’Or: in 2000 with The Yards; in 2007 with We Own the Night; a year later with The Lovers. His last appearance on the Croisette was with The Immigrant in 2013, but for the first time his regular collaborator Joaquin Phoenix does not have a role.
Armageddon Times certainly seems flaccid and artificial when you think of Scorsese’s gutsy, kinetic New York urban dramas such as Goodfellas. This tale of a working class Jewish family – the Graffs – trying to fit in is certainly no kickass affair despite some violent moments at home and in the classroom. The plot lines are predictable, and references to the Holocaust are a hollow echo of much more moving dramas on the subject of antisemitism. The oblique references to the local influential Trump family feel like cheap point-scoring with intentionally unlikeable cameo roles from John Diehl as Donald Trump’s father Fred, and Jessica Chastain as the hard-faced US judge Maryanne Trump, along with the fact that the Graff family hail originally from Ukraine.
The youngest boy Paul (Banks Repeta) is possibly an autobiographical portrait of the young James Grey – unruly, artistic and at odds with the rest of the striving family, particularly his hot-headed father (Jeremy Strong), he only connects with his grandfather Aaron (Hopkins) who will finance his private education after a few dust-ups at the local ‘comprehensive’ with his black friend Johnny ending up taking the rap. Celebrated cinematographer Darius Khondji tries to lift Armageddon out of the torpid settings but all and all this is a pale rider in contrast with Gray’s previous Cannes feature, the space-hopping Ad Astra (2019). MT
IN COMPETITION | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL