Taika Waititi has done it again! As if What we do in the Shadows wasn’t glorious enough, he then decided to write, direct, and star in this cinematic accomplishment.
War movies give me anxiety – especially ones highlighting the horrors of WWII. With that in mind, my official mood going into this comedy-war-drama was “TENSE”.
Jojo Rabbit is the story of an adorable 10-year old boy named Jojo who is working his way up the ranks of the Hitler youth during WWII. What’s up with the “Rabbit” part of his name? You’ll see.
Jojo is all about that Hitler life, hailing everyone he sees as he makes his way down the street to his Nazi summer camp. As with many 10-year-olds, Jojo has an imaginary friend, but, unlike most children, his imaginary friend is…Hitler. So there’s that slight differentiator.
Jojo looks to Hitler (Taika Waititi) to help him be his best self, and although Hitler can be a little self-centered and childish, he does provide companionship for Jojo most of the time. You see, Jojo’s mother (Scarlett Johannson) isn’t home very much, and his father is overseas, so he must find ways to keep himself occupied.
Taiki Waititi is actually part Jewish. When asked why he chose to play Hitler in this film, he had a brilliant response: “The answer’s simple, what better ‘fuck you’ to the guy?”.
At “camp” Jojo catches up with his best friend, Yorki, another precious child actor who is way too good to be a human. Sam Rockwell plays Captain Klezendorf, the eccentric and darkly humorous camp director, accompanied by his secret lover, Finkel, played by Alfie Allen (a.k.a. Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones).
Rebel Wilson is laugh-out-loud funny as fellow camp director Fraulein Rahm. I know Rebel can be too outrageous for some people (my mother dislikes her entire vibe), but if you haven’t enjoyed her before, please give her a chance in Jojo Rabbit. She is truly hilarious.
I am happy to report that, although a few points in this movie are expectedly dark and depressing, they are balanced very well with the humor and parody of the rest of the film. These actors are perfectly cast for their roles and they play them to near perfection. That’s probably why it was nominated for (and won) so many awards.
One afternoon, Jojo makes a very concerning discovery in his house: his mother has been hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their walls. As an avid Hitler youth, this is extremely distressing to our little Jojo. But, he decides to make the best of the situation by using the opportunity to his advantage. Jojo wants to truly know his enemy, so he asks his uninvited guest to tell him all about the Jews so he can write a book. Elsa agrees, and the two begin getting to know one another.
The remainder of this film takes the viewer through waves of humor, sacrifice, anguish, goofiness, and love. Jojo’s world evolves significantly as he gets to know Elsa, and his relationship with Hitler starts to splinter. It’s hard to imagine how comedy could possibly weave so seamlessly with such a disturbing premise, but Taika Waititi does it beautifully. I find this film to be touching, funny, and deeply human. Jojo Rabbit is historical fantasy at its finest.