Submitted by Julio M

Short pooper:
Grandpa Aaron (Anthony Hopkins) dies of bone cancer, which devastates Esther (Anne Hathaway) and Irving (Jeremy Strong), Paul’s (Banks Repeta) parents. Paul convinces Johnny (Jaylin Webb) to steal a computer from his wealthy prep school to sell it so they can finance Johnny’s intended trip to move to Florida, but they both end up getting arrested in the process. To protect Paul and seeing he will have no other way out, Johnny takes the fall for the incident. Irving empathizes with Paul out of acknowledgment that, despite knowing how bad racism and inequality are in the country, they must survive at all costs. In the end, Ronald Reagan wins the Presidential Election of 1980, which Paul and his family perceive as a disappointing turning point in the course of history.

Long version:
Paul is visibly out of place in the environment of his older brother Ted’s (Ryan Sell) affluent prep school, Forest Manor, where he was sent by his parents to -as they saw it- “move him away from the deteriorating environment of the public system so he could improve”; he does make a rather shallow connection with some classmates but despises the all-around snobbiness and the fact that everybody seems to be a rabid Republican; this, perceivable in a welcoming speech attended both by Fred Trump (John Diehl) and his daughter Maryanne (Jessica Chastain) -respectively, Donald Trump’s real-life father and sister-. He also misses his good friend Johnny, from his previous public school, dearly and finds himself not being able to hang out with him as much anymore, due to his new obligations.

Johnny’s personal life takes a turn for the worse when the foster system aims to remove him from the home of his very ill grandmother and place him elsewhere, so he asks Paul to let him stay in his backyard clubhouse. Paul reluctantly agrees, out of fear for what could happen to Johnny; this also raises his family’s suspicion of “some black guy apparently loitering around the property”. In one of these instances, Johnny -visibly tough and rebellious on the outside, but, in nature, a wise-beyond-his-years boy just fighting to surmount the horrible and unfair life bestowed upon him- confides to Paul his intention of leaving school and running away to Florida to start anew with some relatives.

One day, Paul goes to the park with his caring and wise maternal Grandpa Aaron -Esther’s dad, who was also always loving and respectful towards Irving-, to spend some time and fly a rocket he had been working on. Grandpa -who has bone cancer and has kept it a secret from Paul, although Esther is shown to know something about it-, upon hearing Paul decry against racism and how he himself did nothing over some ugly comments his schoolmates made about Johnny, tells his grandson he needs to stand up against any form of prejudice when he sees it, and reminds him that they, themselves, despite being Jewish and antisemitism still being somewhat prevalent, have a leg up in that painful matter because “they can pass themselves up as white people”.

Not too long after, Grandpa is hospitalized and Paul discovers what is happening when he sees the old man agonizing in a gurney. When he dies, Irving tearfully reminisces of him at the funeral. Fed up with the hypocritical set of expectations everyone had of him at large, Paul comes up with the idea of stealing one of his school’s modern computers and talks a reluctant Johnny into it. They successfully undertake the task and Johnny decides to take the equipment to “a guy he knew and trusted” at a local pawn shop. Unfortunately, while Paul waits in hiding outside and Johnny is dealing with the man, he betrays them and calls the Police. Johnny is hauled off and Paul, as he tries to make a run for it, is also caught.

At the station, as a Sgt. D’Arienzo (Domenick Lombardozzi) crudely scolds them and questions them about the matter, Paul attempts to assume the guilt of the incident. But Johnny, knowing that no one would take mercy on him and to spare his dear friend from any consequences, confesses being behind the whole thing, much to Paul’s sadness. The two boys bid farewell to each other -potentially never to meet again-, Irving picks up Paul and it is revealed that D’Arienzo was actually an old acquaintance of Irving and owed him a home repair favour from before, so Paul ends completely off the hook. As they go back home, Paul admits he is ready to assume whatever punishment that comes his way; but, surprisingly, Irving, while still upset, shows empathy towards his son, tells him there will be no punishment because he also wants to spare a grieving Esther from this and, as much as he acknowledges Johnny did not deserve that fate, life is not fair many times and the only thing left to do was to survive and make the most of one’s luck.

A few days later, as the family watches TV, it is shown that Ronald Reagan would go on to win the Presidential Election of that year by a landslide, which deeply disappoints them -Esther even comments “her fear of a nuclear war”-, while Paul is elsewhere, deeply focused on schoolwork -to which some of them show “being happy about something good out of everything”. Meanwhile, Paul -recurrently shown throughout the movie as a daydreamer- sees the ghost of Grandpa, who comforts him and encourages him to never give up the fight.

Towards the end of the movie, a Thanksgiving celebration is shown taking place at Forest Manor, where Fred Trump once again addresses the students in attendance, praising the “promises of the future world” and hoping “they will indeed become the next big elite”, clearly indicating the changing times. Paul just walks off and leaves the event in disgust.

01 hours 54 minutes