“A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.” –IMDB
My Internal Monologue: “I should really start my blog off with a witty, insightful, obviously slightly-skewering review, showing everyone just how edgy I can be. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
Unfortunately, that great opening review where I dazzle everyone with just how cutting I am wasn’t meant to be. Fortunately, that’s because Jojo Rabbit is one of the most unique and special movies I’ve ever seen. Go, and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough, GO SEE THIS MOVIE!
Why is it so special? It feels like the 20-teens were filled with blockbuster movies that a whole generation of movie-goers had already cast, directed, and added a soundtrack to in their head, almost all of which failed to even come close to those expectations. Disney remakes, Marvel franchises, Star Wars sequels. Although some have done well, in some cases very well, it seems there will always be a portion of the audience who is unsatisfied because they have already built the literal perfect picture in their head. I’m extremely guilty of this, the Lion King remake left me viscerally angry. In this disappointment is where the beauty of Jojo Rabbit lay. Let me clarify…
Although there’s no lack of World War II movies in this world, Jojo Rabbit is unique in the perspective it chooses to take. Loosely based on Christine Leunens’ 2004 novel, Caging Skies, it follows an adorable adolescent boy/fervent Hitler supporter (yes, you read that right) as he discovers that his mother has been hiding a teenage Jewish girl in their home and as he discovers what his beloved Hitler truly represents.
The casting by Taika Waititi and his crew is impeccable. He has a keen ability to find young actors who have a full range of dramatic and comedic chops, he’s also shown this in his 2010 film Boy and 2016 film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and this makes his films feel fresh and endearing. At any point, I though Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo) was going to wiggle his little nose like a rabbit, he’s just so damn cute. But he also plays hopeful, doubtful, enthusiastic, heartbroken, and a beautiful myriad of emotions as though he had been acting for decades. Thomasin McKenzie (Elsa) seamlessly and simultaneously plays the role of adversary, teacher, older sister, and love interest to Davis’s Jojo and does it in a way that allows their relationship to develop naturally.
The kids are definitely the heart of this film, but I also have to spend some time talking about Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell, because they blew me away. I (now) hate to say it, but I’ve always had a dislike of Scarlett Johansson that I just couldn’t quite place. I usually think her acting is a little boring, but there’s also just been a Gwenyth Paltrow, patronizing type of quality I sensed was there. Well, Scarlett (I’m sure you’re reading this), I just have to say how sorry I am. She is charming, sharp, strong, and warm and her storyline is one of the most powerful in the movie. Along with Jojo and Elsa, Johansson’s Rosie moves the film delicately, but deliberately from a hilarious satire of fascism into a moving portrayal of where hate leads societies. What’s more amazing, I heard an interview where Waititi said any similarities between the film and today’s society are purely coincidental as he started working on his script in the early 2010’s. Finally, I don’t want to say too much about Sam Rockwell’s role, but one of his scenes is my favorite of the movie and I guarantee I will still cry at it when I’m old and grey. You’ll know it when you see it, kid.
So, coming back around to my original point…because this is a story unlike any other, there is nothing more to do as an audience member than just sit enjoy the ride. And that is extremely freeing. There’s no comparing it to something that came before or building the story in your head before you see it (even if you’ve read the book, the film bears minimal resemblance). I will never understand why Hollywood has such a fear of diversity in storytelling, because audiences have shown how much they crave originality. The Big Sick, Moonlight, and, now, Jojo Rabbit make me hopeful about the direction Hollywood is heading, I just hope it will move a little more quickly, because I need the next Jojo Rabbit ASAP!
Rating: 10 out of 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also see: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows
With: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Taika Waititi, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Rebel Wilson, and Archie Yates
Directed By: Taika Waititi