Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★★★

(Written for my local radio station)

It’s hard to imagine a subject as difficult as the Holocaust working as the backdrop for an idiosyncratic comedy that’s both heartfelt and hilarious. Nevertheless, Jojo Rabbit pulls off exactly that, managing to sustain an earnest emotional core beneath an entertaining surface of sharply metaphorical anti-Nazi satire. Following in the comedic tradition of Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, Jojo Rabbit’s visionary writer and director Taika Waititi performs onscreen as a laughable version of Adolf Hitler, ridiculing the ruler in order to make a farce out of fascism. Similar, also, to Chaplin’s signature form of “dramedy,” Waititi blurs boundaries between the comic and the tragic until it’s impossible to tell whether the tears on your cheeks were derived from sadness or laughter.

Unlike prior portrayals, Hitler in Jojo Rabbit serves not as a depiction of the actual dictator, but as an imaginary friend in the mind of a ten-year-old Nazi named Jojo—a boy whose innocent nature exists in alarming contrast to the cruelty of the Nazi regime. By grounding its story-world in the interior realm of its young protagonist, the film portrays adult atrocities through the eyes of a child, creating a powerful contrast between evil and innocence. It also probes the psychological motivation of vulnerable young men in pledging allegiance to radical movements, a topic which bears striking relevance to our contemporary moment as it exposes the nature of prejudice as both juvenile and dangerous. Pitting love against hatred; reality against myth; and sweet, charming sentiment against the worst of human evil, Jojo Rabbit offers an ingenious merging of opposites that’s as deeply moving as it is funny, and sure to be unlike anything you’ve seen. 

(.....and now for an enthusiastic, informal aside just for Letterboxd—I absolutely adored this movie and have a whole lot more to say about it beyond the basic writeup above!! Expect multiple viewings in my future and more reviews to come. It may not have worked for everyone as well as it worked for me (which as always, is completely fair, subjectivity being a thing and whatnot), but I left the theater personally blown away, refreshed, artistically inspired, and moved beyond words 😭 Thank you Father Taika for this strange, beautiful life-affirming comedy—an instant new entry in my favorites list!!) 🦋

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