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James Gray brought his deeply personal and intimate family story Armageddon Time — a film set in the 1980s and featuring Trump family members as characters — to the Cannes Film Festival Thursday night where it received a warm six-minute standing ovation.
By the end of the applause, Gray and several stars of the film including Anne Hathaway were in tears. “I’ve been to Cannes now five times, I’ve never spoken before. I can only tell you my deepest gratitude to all of you for coming here. It’s very emotional for me; it’s my story in a way,” Gray said. “We finished the film last Saturday in a complete panic and flew this thing here so you are the very first people on planet Earth to see it. I’m grateful to each and every one of you and I can’t thank you enough for coming. I love you all.”
The most rousing applause came for the film’s young leads, Banks Repeta and Jaylin Webb, with special attention paid to stars Hathaway and Jeremy Strong.
The Focus Features release was written and directed by Gray, heavily based on his upbringing in Queens, New York. The coming-of-age story features a young, middle-class Jewish boy (Repeta) who moves from public to private school with the help of his stern but loving grandfather (Anthony Hopkins). In the transition, he leaves behind a friend (Webb) and faces a moral dilemma.
It contained a trenchant critique of the conservative politics of the era, with actors playing members of Donald Trump’s family, including Fred Trump Sr., Donald’s father, and Mary Anne Trump, Donald’s sister. In one scene, Mary Anne, played by Jessica Chastain, delivers a pointed speech inside a private school auditorium about self-reliance. Tovah Feldshuh also stars.
The film is one of 21 titles competing for the Palme d’Or at this year’s 75th edition of the festival. It debuted in front of inside a packed 2,000 seat theatre on day three. Julia Roberts turned heads on the red carpet, arriving with Chopard’s artistic director and co-president Caroline Scheufele. Other attendees included TikTok superstar Khaby Lame and actress Deepika Padukone.
Back to Gray. Though he admitted to hustling to get Armageddon Time done in time for this year’s festival, he already has an eye on a return. “I hope I come back here sometime because it’s the castle of cinema, it’s the church of cinema.”
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