Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★

So yes-this is a movie about a ten year old nazi youth in Germany in the dying days of the third reich who has a friendship with an (imaginary) Hitler, and it plays very much as a broad satire when it starts out, and there are tonal shifts that, when combined with the subject matter, make it feel like a naturally divisive film (the director's musical choices are the.........icing on the Bundt cake in this regard)-which is a way of saying I can see why people might walk out fifteen minutes in--or why it would win an audience award. Depends on the audience I guess. I like Taika Waititi's work, tonal shifts and all, and I was worried that he was maybe stretching himself too far in satirical directions with this one, that it would be sort of a textbook collapse after the success of Thor: Ragnarok/Hunt for the Wilderpeople/What We Do in the Shadows, but while his approach to the material genuinely works well (He keeps the tonal shifts fairly simple, but this in essence a tragedy about Life During Wartime that's disguised itself as a wacky comedy-if you take away the director's performance as imaginary Hitler, suddenly all the other everyday horrors and the banalities of the situation are right in your face as the audience--it changes the sense of what's happening in the film a lot if you do it) and the film is very well made, with performances that all feel pitched to the director's wavelength, both adult (Sam Rockwell and Alfie Allen kind of should have had their own movie, maybe?) and adolescent (Thomasin McKenzie-Harcourt, she of LEAVE NO TRACE is once again excellent) and a camera that knows exactly when to follow butterflies and when not to, framing the actors in a quiet commentary on their place in the world around them. If I had a main criticism, it might be that the film has its cake and tries to eat it too just a little too much--for all the contrast established between the reality of the situation and the various delusions that characters caught up in facism have to/or want to follow, Waititi's story seems to guide its main characters to an ending that's content not to dig too deeply in the complexities of the situation--positing Facism as a phase that's eventually grown out of, and while it's got some practical advice, it also feels just a little too pat. But it DID make me curious to read the book 'Caged Skies'(?) that it's based on and see how faithful the director was, or how much he adapted it to his own purposes, so there's that.

(Alternatively: Sam Rockwell doesn't dance, but he DOES get to wear a ridiculously ornate costume and fire a gatling gun in slow motion, so you know, 3/5 stars--mild spoiler)

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