Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit skillfully walks a tightrope that few films can. It is both a hilarious World War II satire and a deeply moving coming-of-age drama. In its most absurd moments, it exposes how dangerous unchecked racism and hatred can be, while simultaneously preaching a message of love and acceptance in an earnest way.
At the film’s core is Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a member of the Hitler Youth, who dreams of one day serving as the Führer’s right-hand man. His devotion to the German leader is so great that his imaginary friend is a pep-talking version of Adolf (Waititi). However, when an accident at camp forces Jojo to stay at home, he makes the startling discovery that that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is harbouring a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomason McKenzie), upstairs. Having never actually encountered a Jewish person before, the revelation slowly forces Jojo to re-evaluate everything he has been taught to believe.
Confidently mixing humour and pathos to expose how easily fascist ideologies can infect a society, Jojo Rabbit is a powerful and uplifting film. Not your typical World War II tale, Waititi’s films builds its layers slowly. The humour serves as the perfect vessel to deliver the film’s poignant medicine of acceptance. While the early sequences at camp, complete with incompetent leaders played by Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson and Alfre Allen, conjure up memories of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Jojo Rabbit has Waititi’s distinct style stamped all over it.
What Waititi achieves in the film is remarkable and incredibly difficult. His comedic beats are daring without ever crossing the line, which allow the unexpected dramatic moments to deeply resonate. Pulling wonderful performances from Roman Griffin Davis and Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit effortlessly navigates its various shifts in tone.
Drawing parallels to today’s political landscape, Waititi uses the film to highlight how hate can cause one to blindly believe in dangerous rhetoric. Offering a ray of hope in divided times, Jojo Rabbit preaches the value of love overpowering hate.
I heard about how polarizing the film is despite winning the top prize at Toronto but I still want to see this mainly because of Waititi as I wonder how it plays into the themes he often explores which his comedy/tragedy in relation to a lot of films with Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople being the best examples.
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