bjarvis’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the most highly anticipated films of 2019 (and for me personally) is Jojo Rabbit, the newest film from acclaimed director Taika Waititi, who seems to have his fingers in all major projects in Hollywood currently. Following his win at the recent Academy Awards, for best adapted screenplay (Taika’s 1st Oscar), I knew I couldn’t put this film off any longer.
Having watched this, I feel like I’m missing something. This is a good satire film but it never crosses into that great level. I have friends who have this as their number one film of the year. I don’t think it would make my top 30 (admittedly, I saw 140 2019 films) and that’s extremely disappointing. As mentioned, this film won an Oscar for writing, it has a stellar cast, Waititi is on a hot streak and Scarlett Johansson is one of the hottest properties in Hollywood right now, earning an Oscar nomination for this film (along with Marriage Story). But something just doesn’t work for me personally. This film never reaches that next level. Act 1 does a good of job of setting up the world and the characters. Act 2 continues that and then has a great conclusion to the act, that I didn’t see coming at all. If this film does 1 thing well, it’s subverting my expectations. I thought I had theorised the ending about half an hour in, and this film doesn’t go near an obvious set-up.
For me the biggest issue of this film, is an anti-climactic 3rd act. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, maybe I need to watch this film again. But after a big moment to end Act 2, I was expecting something completely different, and what I got, lacked impact. There’s not too much I can say, without spoiling Act 2 or Act 3 but I just expected more.
The cast as mentioned is excellent. Roman Griffin Davis is excellent as the titular Jojo. Where so many kids come across as annoying in film, he’s well written and supported by a firm performance. I hope Roman finds his way into more films. He’s equally well supported by Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa. She was a real surprise for me, and like Roman, I hope to see her in more. Scarlett Johansson is very good as Rosie. Personally, I don’t think her performance deserved an Academy Award nomination, and I would have given it to the always fantastic Sam Rockwell, who is the standout in this film. Rebel Wilson is passable (for once), Taika Waititi is his usual fun self in an extremely brave and risky performance. The acting and directing in this film is not the issue for me.
Jojo Rabbit is a good film, make no mistake about it. But with all the hype, the quality of the cast and director, the accolades and the Academy Award, I was expecting more. I think I’m in the minority here and I want to watch this film again – to confirm my rating. I also never knew I needed German covers of classic rock songs until I saw this film.