Jojo Rabbit - 2019
Updated: Apr 26
Taika Waititi has a real gift for exploring serious topics through the lens of comedy. Not only is Jojo Rabbit hilarious, it's insightful. Too often, Waititi is underestimated and his nuanced messages, delivered through satire, considered unintentional. However, in Jojo Rabbit, as in Boy, the messages are clear, necessary and make a profound impact if you're paying attention. And if you're not? It's pretty funny, too.
This film is visually stunning. Each shot is crafted well and Waititi isn't afraid to use long shots that demonstrate the beauty of the scenery, or throw out the rule of thirds when focusing on characters and their development. Furthermore, the camera is used to make us empathise and understand the film's purpose.
Towards the start of the movie, there is a moment when members of a Hitler youth group are joyously burning books. They do this with the energy of young children, excited at the prospect of being allowed to engage in such behaviour. The scene is heightened purposefully, and insightfully communicates the process of indoctrination that these young humans were subjected to at the time. They are elated, excited and heightened by the concept of doing something, that audience members know to be wrong; something that has caused a lot of pain to many people. However, it is made clear that these children are a product of brainwashing. The reactions of the young people are then juxtaposed with a close up of the books themselves, burning. A moment of recognition for the atrocities that occurred during World War II. There are more moments of perceptive camera-work, but I'm trying to write this review spoiler-free. You'll have to watch it for yourself.
The performances in this film are sublime. I'm not sure which of the casting directors was responsible for both Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates, but they did a really fantastic job. Davis and Yates are not only believable from start to finish, but demonstrate comedic timing; no easy feat at the age of eleven. Furthermore, Waititi as Jojo's invisible friend, Hitler, is excellent. His childlike energy in the role is what you'd expect a child's projection of this historical figure to be. And of course, the comedy is on point, but I'm sure you already knew that. Finally, Scarlett Johansson delivers a beautiful performance. Her role isn't just that of a two-dimensional mother character. She represents a great many people who lived during the 30s and 40s, and engaged in courageous acts, not because they had to, but because they felt they should.
I am truly sick to death of films that continuously deliver their messages and themes through verbatim exposition from beginning to end. It's reminiscent of Healthy Harold the giraffe, saying, "Don't do drugs, kids," to me in grade two. This is certainly an effective way to deliver a message to a bunch of seven-year-olds, but once a human-being hits double digits, this quickly becomes tiresome. Waititi's work is brilliant because he discusses the hard issues without giving audiences a lecture. Furthermore, he allows us to have fun, whilst considering some of the darker moments in human history and subtly reminding us why it's important that said history doesn't repeat itself.
Ordinarily, in true 'Inconceivable! Reviews' fashion, my reviews are littered with what I consider to be funny jokes, but what most would consider cringeworthy puns. If you're a regular reader you'll have noticed that I've abandoned all attempts to be funny here. Firstly, because how could I possibly write a review more hilarious than this film? Secondly, because this film isn't a joke. Go see it. It's good.