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September 12, 2022 12:50 pm
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Anne Hathaway and Anthony Hopkins Star in ‘Armageddon Time’ About Jewish Family, Racism in America

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

(L to R) Jaylin Webb stars as Johnny Crocker and Michael Banks Repeta stars as Paul Graff in director James Gray’s “Armageddon Time.” Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features.

Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong are starring in a new film about a Jewish family in Queens, New York, whose youngest member sparks a friendship with a black schoolmate that gets strained by racism in America.

“Armageddon Time” is a semi-autobiographical drama from writer, producer and director James Gray that follows his upbringing in the 1980s in Queens. Hathaway and “Succession” actor Strong play Irving and Esther Graff, versions of Gray’s parents, while Hopkins stars as Aaron Graff, who is based on Gray’s grandfather.

Irving and Esther’s young son Paul Graff, played by actor Banks Repeta, forms a bond with Johnny Crocker, who is Black, in public school in Queens after both are repeatedly picked on by a teacher. The youngsters also both suffer from ADHD. Gray told Deadline that Crocker, who in the film is portrayed by Jaylin Webb, was his closest friend in public school.

Paul’s parents later send him to Kew-Forest, a private school in Queens full of bigots and racists who make offensive remarks about Blacks and make him feel insecure about his friendship with Crocker. The school exists in real life and Gray said the students were “actually worse” than how he depicted them in the film.

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Repeta’s character gets contrasting advice from his grandfather, who urges him to be a “mensch” and stand up for Crocker when people talk badly about him, and from his mother, who tells him to stay away from Crocker.

Hopkins’ character also talks to his grandson about the antisemitism his family faced in Europe for being Jewish and how it continues on in the United States.

Gray said the film focuses on racism promoting inequality in America and that he wanted to show “layers of white privilege” in the 1980s that still exist today. He said, “It’s impossible to look at the world as currently constructed, at least the Western world… and not see white privilege as one of the guiding mechanisms that are in existence.”

“Armageddon Time” premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a seven-minute standing ovation, and made its North American premiere on Sept. 2 at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. The film be released for a limited run on Oct. 28 before expanding to theaters nationwide on Nov. 11. It also stars Jessica Chastain and Jewish actress Tovah Feldshuh.

Watch the trailer for “Armageddon Time” in the video below.

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