Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★★

It was an interesting experience watching Jojo Rabbit again after attending a test screening way back in January. After I really enjoyed the early cut, and was subsequently perplexed by the derision it received at TIFF, I came to the film again knowing its story beats and surprises, but with an eye to find out what changes were made and what could have sparked the intense backlash.

First of all, Jojo Rabbit finds Taika Waititi crystallizing his film-making aesthetic. The film exists halfway between the impeccably color-coordinated, meticulously framed sets of Wes Anderson, and the sharp, unexpected edits of Tarantino, while stamping every frame with the signature that this is "Taika Waititi film". It contains many elements that are quickly becoming hallmarks of Taika's films, such as the 360 degree spinning shot to show the passage of time; or the amusingly strange artwork presented with utmost sincerity. It is populated by characters who are ridiculous caricatures, while still feeling wholly human, and uses them to pack the film with absurd humor. Taika proves once again why he is one of the best directors of child actors, coaxing performances that are silly, yet emotionally vulnerable, while emphasizing that these characters are indeed children and not "a 40 year old director's idea of a human child".

Coming to the film a second time, it is clear that its humor is rooted in the surprise of expectation-subversion, and it doesn't quite have the ever-green laughs found in What We Do in the Shadows, or Hunt for the Wilderpeople. But while it may not be Taika's funniest film, it might just be his most empathetic. The idea of a film from the perspective of a Nazi-fanboy child whose imaginary friend is Hitler was always going to be a tough sell. But I don't think that the film in any way is excusing Nazism, or redeeming Nazi sympathizers like many of the film's critics are arguing. The purpose of the film is to show that it is possible to spark social change on a personal level by reaching out to those who hate us, and asking them to see our humanity. It is a necessary film for our times, but one that might not be embraced as widely as it should.

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