Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★★★

"I guess I’m a kid stuck in a fat kid’s body”

Better than I could have ever imagined. I thought I knew what Taika Waititi was capable of, but this is a level of dramatic filmmaking coupled with hilarious comedy I have not seen in a long time, probably since Life is Beautiful. Fitting, because Jojo Rabbit is the spiritual successor to that masterpiece, earning a spot next to it in the eternal shelves of cinema history. Provocative, but never insensitive, hilarious but thoughtful and moving, Jojo Rabbit is everything I hoped it would be, and so much more.

There is so much to talk about with this film that I honestly don’t know where to start. The music is terrific, and it looks amazing from start to finish. Production design and costumes are exquisite, and coupled with the cinematography I understand wanting to compare it to Wes Anderson, but that’s far too reductive of a comparison. Waititi imbues the film with his own style, never once feeling like an imitation.

The true gems though are the comedy, the acting, and the writing. I’m starting to realize that Waititi’s style of New Zealand humor may not be for everyone, but I truly don’t understand how. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed out loud this much in a theater, I was literally shaking my head in disbelief at some points because I could not believe how funny this was. There was like 20 minutes straight at some point where I was convinced that every line of dialogue was the best thing I’d ever heard, even little throwaway lines that somehow Waititi knows how to turn into classics. Again, I get that this isn’t for everyone, and what a shame.

When it comes to acting, Scarlett Johansson and the Thomasin McKenzie were the two aspects of the film I was least excited for. What a pleasant surprise that these are the heart and soul of this entire picture. Waititi wrote Johansson’s Rosie as a love letter to single mothers, and she in turn gives a truly one of a kind performance, putting everything on the line, and it all pays off. Rosie tries to save her son the only way she knows how: trying to make him laugh, which is an excellent emblem of the film itself. Mckenzie stumbles in her first scene, but never looks backs, and the film’s only misstep is its last.

The rest of the cast is so unbelievable I couldn’t begin to praise them all. Sam Rockwell and Archie Yates will have to share the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, otherwise there is no justice in this world, and Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, and Stephen Merchant are all pitch perfect. But at the end of the day, this film rests on the shoulders of first time actor Roman Griffin Davis, and as the perfect Taika Waititi muse he is able to handle humor and heart in equal measure like the most seasoned actor.

Jojo Rabbit is Waititi’s most mature film because he tackles a powerful subject matter but never loses his unique sense of humor. Jojo is so thematically rich that it will have you thinking long after you’re done laughing (and then while you’re thinking you’ll start laughing again, and so on and so forth). The concept of an “anti-hate satire” sounded very simplistic to me, but you really can’t underestimate the importance of using humor to highlight just how truly absurd it is to hate another person just because of their race, or any other part of them. To see how easy it is to warp the mind of a child is powerful reminder that when you are raised to hate, and you have a voice in your head (potentially coming from Adolf Hitler himself) that encourages the hate, and it is really difficult to buck the status quo. And simply by using Nazy Germany as a setting, Waititi offers a moving tribute to those who suffered under the Nazi regime, and those who fought against it, without ever feeling exploitative.

Finally, I will just say that if you see this and your reaction is that you have no pity for Nazis, you’re missing the point of the movie, and probably of life as a whole. Everyone is worthy of your empathy, especially someone who was brainwashed, or lonely, or feels like their life doesn’t have meaning, because there are a lot of people like that in the world right now, and just like Jojo they tend to find meaning in extremist groups. Jojo Rabbit is a beautiful reminder that those people need our help, and if we give up on them, they are lost.

Oh, and Taika Waititi plays Hitler, and it's the best thing ever.

“She’s like a female Jewish Jesse Owens Jack the Ripper”

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