James Gray Reflects on Early Awakening – The Hollywood Reporter

After a turf adventure far from home, he visits Amazon Z Lost City and deep space AD Astra, James Gray Returning in his sharpest solo film yet, doomsday time, to Queens, New York, where he grew up. An unpretentious family snapshot that traces the seeds of the artist’s evolution and the hard lessons of life’s injustice that helped shape his character, it’s a refreshingly understated drama whose tenderness makes it all the more Bittersweet.Impeccable live performance as well Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkinsand two bright young newcomers.

bow at Cannes Film Festival Competition ahead of release later this year Focus functionthis is clearly a work of love, emotional authenticity and gratitude, qualities that breathe life into every widescreen frame of cinematographer Darius Khondji, with just the right amount of unflashy visuals, grainy texture and softness color.

doomsday time

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Minor magic.

Place: Cannes Film Festival (competition)
Throw: Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Towa Feldschau, John Deere, Andrew Poe Kirk, Ryan Searle, Jacob McKinnon, Marcia Joan Kurtz, Domenique Lombardozzi
Director and screenwriter: James Gray

1 hour 55 minutes

Rarely has a place and time — 1980, on the cusp of Reagan’s first presidency — been so evocative, eschewing the nostalgic filter for a more obvious feel. Nothing is romantic, but the show is filled with natural warmth, even as it depicts traumatic experiences. It’s also acutely attuned to the cultural peculiarities of being descended from Jewish immigrants fleeing Eastern Europe, reaching a time when the long arm of history has pierced through and changed your worldview.

Gray’s stand-in is Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), a sixth grader at PS 173 in Queens, whose humorous teacher, Mr. Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk), dismisses his artistic skills or attempts to make other students laugh. Paul, who is just beginning to enjoy teenage rebellion, draws him to Johnny (Jaylin Webb), a black kid in his class, who gets dragged for a year and is often the target of “Turkish” hate because they call teacher.

While Paul complied for a while while falsely assured his mother Esther (Hathaway) had authority over Turkey in her role as PTA president, his clever mouth and openly defiant attitude often angered his parents. His father, Owen (Strong), is a seriously injured plumber who often babbles about whether anyone is listening, random topics like the perfect load-bearing quality of a truss bridge. Paul is constantly at odds with his bully brother Ted (Ryan Sell), so his main connection in the family is his big-hearted British grandpa Aaron (Hopkins), who buys the boy a Model rocket kit and promise to take him to Paul to finish assembling the toy, Flushing Meadows will start it.

That scene, set against the futuristic 1964 World’s Fair structure, is one of the film’s most moving moments, showing Hopkins’s virtuosity in conveying deep emotion with impeccable restraint. Aaron’s quiet intelligence and consistent composure made him the heart of a generally more turbulent family, and he was about to go to the hospital for major surgery, explaining only to Paul that he would be away for a while. A quick shot of his daughter Esther watching the two of them from the car leaves him in the grief that haunts the follow-up to a sincere but never sentimental film.

She’s been doing her best job since Hathaway Rachel gets marriedUnlike most American movie moms, Esther is not a perfect vessel of love and understanding, but a real, exhausted person whose parenting instincts are often dulled by flashes of impatience. (She’s also too busy to coax her sons—she teaches home economics and is running for a seat on the district school board.) But it’s lovely that even the worst screaming squabbles always come with little ones Small love, shows that quarrels are quickly forgotten.

The family scene is gorgeous. Messy and lively, they are known for their seemingly random ways of capturing moments when important plotlines may not have happened, yet the director deftly sketches out the entire complex dynamics of unique personalities. Conversation at the dinner table is very interesting when it shows a group of people talking at the same time and often not listening. And the unkindness between brothers of that era seems to come directly from experience.

This makes the intimate conversation between Paul and his grandpa very important. Paul had just come out of the boring phase of childhood, perhaps for the first time accepting the pain of hearing about the past. Aaron tells the boy about the courage of his grandmother Mickey (Tova Feldshu), whose Ukrainian parents were murdered by the Cossacks in front of her, and who escaped from Poland to England. There, she met her future husband, and they traveled to the United States via Ellis Island.

But this is not a familiar Count Your Blessing lecture. It seems to be more about tracing a lineage that pushes Paul to believe in himself and the possibilities the world can offer him. His grandfather had a knack for communicating with Paul in a way his parents usually couldn’t. So when he was caught smoking cigarettes with Johnny at school, his parents decided to take him out of the public school and put him and Ted in the same private school in wealthy Forest Hills, and only through the firm reasoning of his grandfather did Paul get Accept that tragic fate.

Even if they didn’t object to casual displays of racism, Paul’s family was open-minded, shocked by Reagan’s rise from a bad governor to a player on the national political stage. It gave Paul a shocking exposure to mean rich kids and their overtly discriminatory views, even if he was afraid to speak out against them.

Gray nods to America’s escalating forces of hatred and division through a brief appearance by one of Forest Hill’s primary benefactors, Fred Trump (John Deere), who greets Paul with a cynical welcome on day one , questioning the child’s racial origin. called Graff. Marian Trump (guest star Jessica Chastain) speaks at school assembly on the importance of being successful rather than seeking handouts. It doesn’t take any sanctimonious emphasis to note the irony coming from a family for whom nepotism is as natural as breathing.

The film’s title, in subway graffiti font in the opening and closing credits, comes from Willie Williams’ reggae cover by The Clash in the late ’70s, which the British rocker heard on the soundtrack one of the two songs. Politicians kept predicting the end of the world, warning of the threat of nuclear war, but for Paul, it was his withdrawal from the world he knew would be thrown into an enclave of white privilege. In an environment that urges students to shape themselves as future leaders in finance, business and politics, even the way success is defined suddenly seems out of place for him.

“Both of our boys are going to get real seats at the dinner table,” said Grandma Mitch, who, like her husband, is a retired public school teacher. Her disapproval of black children being sent to crowded classrooms could make her a gruff figure in the hands of another writer-director. But Gray showed empathy in examining the contradictions and limitations of family members who would never have considered themselves supportive of Reagan’s conservative thinking.

The main conflict provoked by Paul’s actions was the distance between him and Johnny, who was living alone with his grandmother, who was devastated when her dementia progressed too far for him to remain in custody. Has been avoiding social services.

From the jumping adventures of two boys to a melancholic feeling—skip school excursions to the Guggenheim Museum to Central Park and pinball halls—to Johnny’s desperation, hiding in Paul’s backyard clubhouse. Johnny’s dream of becoming an astronaut inspired the idea of ​​escaping to Florida to work at NASA, and Paul’s fascination with superheroes perhaps fueled the silly belief he could make it happen. When their plan inevitably fails, Paul faces the harsh inequities of a world where, as Irving tells him in a devastating exchange, “some people get an unfair deal.”

Strong, with his stiff body language, was at his best in that scene. Owen eloquently admits he doesn’t know how to talk to his son like the boy’s grandpa. Given his mother’s vulnerability after the blow, he almost pleaded for Paul’s understanding. The soft-spoken, grown-up conversation is a stark contrast to the earlier scenes of Owen’s rough-and-tumble discipline of boys. In Repeta’s tender, watchful performance, it shows Paul taking his losses on board, learning to think for himself, and seeing the world for what it is.

It’s a thoughtful film, with small ripple-effect moments throughout that continue to resonate even after the end credits, with Christopher Spellman’s acoustic score subtly amplifying their emotional effect. The mix of classical music with period tracks like “Rapper’s Delight” by Johnny’s favorite band The Sugarhill Gang also reinforces the meaning of a story about the past that mirrors other pasts of the past, but is also relevant to our present.

“Don’t be nervous, be bold,” Grandpa Aaron urged Paul. While we’ve only seen evidence of a child’s talent for drawing — including Turkey’s dismissive Kandinsky replica — it’s impossible not to see fledgling filmmaker Gray embrace this guiding principle.

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