The second half of 2019 for film has been on absolute fire. Up until the start of Fall, the only films that really stood out from the rest of the field were your mainstream, blockbuster films such as Us, Shazam!, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. However, the month of October was amazing and we continue to great film after great film and Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is one of those films.
People have forgotten was satire is. We live in a society where you can’t push limits because you were going to enrage the masses. Jojo Rabbit takes a satirical look at World War II, specifically, Nazi Germany during that time. Jojo Betzler is the main focus of the film and he plays a 10-year old who is a part of the Hitler Youth to train for the war. However, Jojo has a hesitation of killing living things and winds up being mocked for it, thus, culminates in him suffering an injury that keeps him from training. As Jojo remains at home, he realizes that his mother, played by Scarlett Johansson, is hiding a Jewish girl inside the walls of the house.
Here is where this movie gets interesting. We know how Nazis viewed the Jewish population so Waititi really had to put a lot of thought into how he portrays this dynamic between Jojo and this Jewish girl named Elsa. It is brilliant. They go from hating and wanting to kill each other but once Jojo sees that a Jewish person is not this hideous, devil type of person, he begins to enjoy her presence and he ultimately develops feelings for her. For Elsa, while she is afraid of the situation she is in, she’s not afraid of Jojo and tells him throughout the film that he is not the ultimate, superior human that Nazi propaganda has told him. Their relationship arc is one of the best aspects of this film and brings a lot of tension to this film, especially when the Gestapo come to the house to see if any Jewish people are hiding out.
Where people may lose interest in this film is with Waititi playing Adolf Hitler for comedic relief. We know the atrocities committed by this man and Waititi definitely understands that. Look, he is hilarious as this satirical form of Hitler. It’s great. This film never feels trashy like some black comedy films try to be. Waititi does his best job of balancing dark humor and recognizing how awful these people were during that time.
Scarlett Johansson delivers one of the better performances of her career. You can tell that she had a blast in this role with her delivery and her body language. She is 100 percent ready to advance her career past Marvel. The relationship that she has with Jojo is quite emotionally-grasping. There is a scene later on in this film that calls back to a pair of shoes and I had to do my best to hold back tears because it was such a heartbreaking callback to a great scene from early on in the film.
In terms of negatives, I would say that there are a couple of scenes that drag on and lack anything from Waititi’s Hitler. Once we first see Waititi as Hitler, it is absolutely hilarious and you want more immediately. After his first scene, he fades away for about 15 minutes and the film becomes pretty slow. I would also say that the film looks a little bit too modern for the late 1930s-early 1940s setting. I know that the actual period was not the focus of the film. This is not a mockumentary of WWII but there were times where I felt as though I was watching a 2019 cosplay of Nazi Germany more so than this film being set during that time.
Outside of that, this film is incredible. Originality, great acting, hilarious, beautiful dynamics between our main characters, and just an overall joy to watch this movie is. Please, if this film is in a theater close to you and you don’t have anything to do, go see Jojo Rabbit. You will not be disappointed.