Armageddon Time

Armageddon Time ★★★★

The first act is rough. I felt like I was watching a witless take on vintage Woody Allen or even some ethnic comedy like My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But the joke's on me because James Gray is too smart for that and is simply setting up expectations to be subverted. Gray is much better at moral murkiness and cosmic dread than comedy. Once it shifts gears to show us the hypocrisy of the family, it gets very good. I imagine it will be misread as white/Jewish liberal guilt claptrap, but really, it's self incriminating that brand of liberal piety. People who feel good by yelling at Ronald Reagan (or Donald Trump) on television and saying "I'm not one of those people!" while reaping the fruits of the neoliberal American hierarchy same as the Trump family or any of the more blatant explicitly racist white private school kids casually dropping slurs.

That the Johnny character -a young black kid at Paul's public school- is an ornamental ghost in the shadows (Gray often frames him in darkness, inviting insipid criticism that Gray doesn't know how to light for black people w/o ever bothering to think about the meaning of that image) on the periphery is entirely the point. Once again implicating the cloaked racism and hypocrisy of a Jewish family one generation away from the holocaust. The moral and ethical "Gray" areas and even the hows and whys of Gray's handling of the lone black character welcomes controversy and discussion. That is to the film's advantage. Helps that it's well constructed with the same deep sepia browns of The Immigrant and the old fashioned, downbeat, weighty melancholy that makes James Gray one of the best living American filmmakers.

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