Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★½

This is a tough one. I think this film has sparked a lot of interesting takes on whether a comedy about nazis and Hitler is just too much of a loaded subject to even approach, or if portraying Hitler as just an idiotic goof is irresponsible. For me... I feel like what this movie is doing is just fine, but I shifted my own attention primarily away from Hitler into what I think is the real heart of the matter, the dehumanization of others. I see a lot of frustration against this as a movie that just says "Hey that Hitler guy was kind of bad, wasn't he?," though I can't help but feel that's a little harsh. Maybe the importance of viewing everyone as a real, valid person despite differences in identity can be said to be too simple, but fuck, at the time this movie is coming out it still feels like something a lot of people need to hear. Not that I think they're going to go see this movie and not that I think it would change them, but the point is, this message in some sense still needs to be propagated. Waititi himself, at the end of this interview expresses a sort of frustration at needing to make a movie like this in 2019. I'm open to the idea that there may be some naiveté in the portrayal, though where I land at the moment is that this is a comedian who sincerely believes in the power of comedy to combat serious issues, feeling the need to make a project that addresses worrying trends in the world. I think it's going to take a lot more than this to deal with our fascist problem, but I don't think this is inherently a bad step.

Anyway, possible objections to its very concept aside, I found it pretty good. For all the complaints that exist about how it makes nazis look harmless through jokes about their buffoonery, it's willing to go a lot sadder at moments than I expected. We're not visiting concentration camps; at that point it would be terribly tasteless, but the focus here is on the war itself and the efforts to indoctrinate youth. Nonetheless, we do get glimpses of the brutal reality of the atrocities nazis committed. It does come with a cost though; I don't think this film is fully able to make its tone balancing work. Not in a "this is tasteless" sort of way, there was just some whiplash in how Waititi can't resist getting back to the jokes quickly. This aforementioned buffoonery only applies to the officers seen in the film, though. I think the portrayal of Hitler is getting more attention than it should as it's not even about Hitler exactly, it's a 10 year old child's projection of what they think Hitler would be, armed with the idea that he is basically a superhero and nothing else.

But really, in the end, I just think this is pretty entertaining and sweet. Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie are both excellent young actors and I can't wait to see more from them. Jokes don't always land, but enough did to stay pretty amusing. Whether it stumbles at moments or not, it's a movie about not buying into fear-mongering and keeping sight of the humanity of others. I can't be too mad at that.

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