Title: Jojo Rabbit
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen & Stephen Merchant
Produced by: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley
Reel Talk - Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Where many of the other critically acclaimed films of 2019 were decidedly bleak, Jojo Rabbit is unabashedly happy. Director Taika Waititi’s caustic and playful sense of humour strikes just the right tone to pull off this “anti-hate satire”. You’ll be leaving the theatre with a sudden urge to dance.
In this Academy award-winning screen adaptation of Christine Leunen’s Caging Skies, we are introduced to Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, an enthusiastic member of Hitler Youth. Jojo lives with his mother, Rosie, after losing his older sister to influenza and his father to the war. After an accident at training camp, Jojo returns home to discover a Jewish girl who his mother has been hiding, living in a false wall in his deceased sister’s bedroom.
With the war entering its final stages, Jojo finds himself torn between his feelings, his fears and his convictions.
Jojo Rabbit tackles timely topics like hate and tribalism but, unlike many of 2019’s topical heavy-hitters—Parasite on income and wealth inequality, Little Women and Bombshell on feminism and sexual assault/misconduct respectively—this is a film that never takes itself too seriously. Its messaging is quietly wrapped up in Jojo’s little child mind and we have enough of a grand time with him in his fantasy-like reality to not feel like we’re watching a public service announcement. Everything from the absurdity of its premise to its highly-stylized set design and deliberately inconsistent German accents, this film is just as guileless and sincere as its titular character and just what our culture needs today.
“[…] the real laughs come from the more seasoned professionals.”
No doubt, the light tone and raw humanity is a direct result of the infectious innocence and incredulity brought in by its younger cast members, Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates, but the real laughs come from the more seasoned professionals. Scarlett Johansson provides many of those laughs herself along with some of the tenderest moments in this film, never teetering over into tasteless shtick or preachy moralism. We are treated to a fully camped-out Sam Rockwell who is aided by Alfie Allen, a particularly well-directed Rebel Wilson and an as-always delightfully uncomfortable Stephen Merchant. Waititi’s oddball Adolf Hitler is this film’s guilty pleasure.
Michael Giacchino created a playful soundtrack for this film that, despite not being his best—which is still saying a lot when you consider that he has given us fantastic scores from films like The Incredibles, Up and Coco—is distinctive and instantly recognizable.
Despite all of the fanciful fun and laugh-out-loud moments, this is a bold and brave film, a risky and daring adventure for Waititi who launched this film into a political climate where even uttering the word “Nazi” has the ability to offend.
What saves this film from being offensive is its brazen sincerity and giant heart. It may not have garnered much Oscar-buzz after receiving its nominations and losing out to Parasite at the 92nd Academy Awards, but Jojo Rabbit is a film that has all of the things that Oscar gold can’t buy.