Though there is plenty of over the top humour here there are also moments of surprising, sneak up on you poignancy. Though he has been praised before, director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) really shows the breadth of his talent with his latest film, Jojo Rabbit. He demonstrates his ability to make you laugh, cry, smile, use your brain, and have your heart break all in a matter of minutes.
Right from the get-go…even from the title of the film, you get a sense of its left of centerness. Yes, it took me a while to fall in line with its rhythm, kinda like what you have to do with Monty Python or Shakespeare (if I can put those two in the same category in this instance), but once I did I totally enjoyed by film experience.
Though some might dismiss it as too crazy or that it dared to poke fun at Nazis and the inhumane things which occurred during World War II, what cannot be denied is the attention to detail Waititi paid in the making of the film. From the inclusion of big songs by The Beatles and David Bowie, but done in German to showing the polarization of the German people themselves at this time in the War.
Johan or Jojo Rabbit (Roman Griffin Davis – first film), as he is cruelly dubbed by a particular leader in his young Nazis training camp, is a devout Nazi. So much so that his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi – Green Lantern, Avengers: Endgame). Couldn’t be more devoted to the Nazi way.
Amazing that he is the way he is as his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story, Lost in Translation) is the polar opposite. She is secretly fighting against the Nazis and is hiding a young Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie – The King, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), in the walls of their flat.
When Jojo discovers Elsa and surprises…well, everyone, when he finds himself liking her…a Jew, this causes the 10-and-a-half-year-old to reevaluate his beliefs. Which definitely causes tension between himself and Adolf.
A satire. Plain and simple (without being plain and simple). It does not pretend to be anything else. It pokes fun at Nazis (easy target) and extremism in general. Gifts us laughs at the expense of bigotry. Though some might argue this is not something we should be laughing at it is an extremely effective way to show that racism (or any of the other isms) is founded on a pile of lies, exaggerations, ignorance, and misconceptions. It is something which should be ridiculed. Publicly. If you truly pay attention and wait with your judgments about the film you will see that as it goes on it gets a little deeper. And darker. Comedy does not necessarily mean fluff.
Making a film like this is a risk. Especially for Waititi. Though it does seem like everything he does of late is lapped up by Hollywood/filmgoers. This film is no different as at the prestigious TIFF it won the Audience Award. It features a great performance by the young actor, one of the best performances of Scarlett Johansson’s career, a look at the innocence of childhood, and laughs which will also challenge you. Make you think about your own biases and recognize that they are probably just as ridiculous.