A film in which an imaginary Adolf Hitler is played by a Polynesian Jew? Only one person has the balls to pull this off. Taika Waititi‘s anti-hate satire makes fun of nazi-Germany and its hitlerjugend in his newest film, Jojo Rabbit. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis),a teenage boy who wants to become the best fascist there is and belong to something bigger than life, joins a youth camp that trains young boys and girls to become better Germans. The camp gets run by one-eyed Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), who spends his time sketching fabulous capes and designing new outrageously camp weapons. With him we get his loyal righthand Finkel (Alfie Allen) and his loud lefthand Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson).
When Jojo tries to prove himself to the older bullish camp guide counsellors, things don’t go exactly as planned and the young boy ends up wounded back home. With his face now looking like a Picasso painting – it’s really not that bad – he’s afraid to go out into the light of day and would rather spend his days getting pep talks from his good friend Adolf (played by Taika Waititi himself). Bright spirit Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has other plans and pushes her son to take on the dangerous world that waits for him. But when Jojo comes home sooner than expected, he finds something every Nazi fears the most, a Jewish girl living in the walls of his home.
The sweet humour seems strange when dealing with a subject matter like this, but fans of Taika’s work know he’s done weirder things. After critically acclaimed films such as ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople‘ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘, the New Zealand director is ready to take on awards season and does so in a very provocative but extremely balanced style. It is a satire and makes fun of bending the truth into a way it becomes enjoyable, yet the film builds up to an emotional third act that feels as bittersweet as it is heartwarming.
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) surprises with a certain flair and joyful theatricality we haven’t seen from her in a while. Not since Ghost World in 2001, has she done something this funny and edgy. It’s a welcome return to form and hopefully post-‘Avengers: Endgame‘, she keeps on track with these interesting and unique roles. Charming newcomer Roman Griffin Davis knows how to carry the entire film. This is his story, and the way Waititi wrote his character to grow over the course of almost two hours will resonate with audiences who sometimes just don’t know better and take the truth for granted. His young and promising co-star Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace), who plays Jewish stowaway Elsa, is perfectly synced with him. Their dialogue and emotional arc grows from Jojo asking if she sleeps upside down like a bat – because that’s what Jews do – to fully embracing the fact she’s human and fills a void in his family’s house, which has been empty for such a long time.
Composer Michael Giacchino‘s score is as brilliant as ever. He proves himself once again to be one of the most diverse and interesting composers in the business, bringing guitars and drums to ‘Jojo’s March’, while a choir is angelically chanting in the background. The visually pleasing production design and use of colour in every scene is almost Wes Anderson-like, but with the heart of Taika Waititi. Jojo Rabbit is just the cheeky little film we didn’t know we needed. An unapologetically brave reminder to face your fears and be resolute when speaking up against those who are wrong.
Review – ‘Jojo Rabbit’
Reviewed at Event Cinemas Gold Class, Sydney, Dec. 6, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 108 min.
PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Twentieth Century Fox, TSG Entertainment, Piki Films, Defender Films, Czech Anglo Productions production. Producers: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley. Executive producer: Kevan Van Thompson.
CREW: Director/screenplay: Taika Waititi. Novel: Christine Leunens. Camera (color, widescreen): Mihai Malaimare Jr.. Editor: Tom Eagles. Music: Michael Giacchino.
WITH: Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates, Luke Brandon Field.