Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★½

"Nothing makes sense anymore."

"Yeah, I know, definitely not a good time to be a Nazi."

Before anything else, to talk about Jojo Rabbit is to talk about Roman Griffin Davis. Everyone else can go home, Davis is the breakout star of 2019. The amount of depth and pathos he's able to exude at 11 (!!!) -years-old is utterly sensational. I'm going to be pulling for him to eke out an Oscar nomination in this year's very crowded race. That Taika Waititi chose him as the soul of this gem, one who takes us on a fiercely dynamic journey, is the finest directorial choice among the many such decisions he made here.

The film itself, like the titular Jojo, is funny, moving, and quietly heartbreaking in the ways that the best of its kind are. Waititi somehow pulled a rabbit (sorry) out of a hat here, brilliantly shepherding one of the biggest surprises of an already packed year. Ironically though, I could've done without his own excessive mugging and pervasively wacky tomfoolery as the naively-constructed personification of Jojo's idealism. In a film filled with terrific performances from the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell, it's a pity Waititi felt the need to use antics that feel overly and needlessly try-hard. Still, the rest of this picture moves like a fine-oiled machine. It isn't a story we haven't seen before (though it does bring a fresh and immediately controversial perspective to it) but it's nevertheless a compelling and at times beautiful one.

I was expecting some guilty chuckles out of this and they're there in full force. What snuck up on me, though, was the nuanced way Waititi portrayed a sobering loss of innocence amidst literal and emotional desolation. It's a fine balancing act that charmed with the best of this year's offerings and I have to tip my hat to just how well this manages to come together, obstacles and all.

P.S. This is one of those films I'm thankful I was able to see on a big screen. It looks great and I really felt Jojo's tale more strongly because of it.

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