TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Film Review: Jojo Rabbit

10 January 20 words: Elizabeth O'Riordan

Taika Waititi’s whimsical World War II satire sends a heartwarming message about friendship and love...

Director: Taika Waititi

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson

Running time: 108 mins

In his previous films Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi explores the experience of being an adolescent boy: having a first crush, searching for a strong male role model and trying to find a place in society. Jojo Rabbit was no different, except that Jojo’s first crush is a Jew, his role model is Hitler and the world surrounding him is The Third Reich.

Jojo Rabbit follows ten-year-old Johannes “Jojo” Betzler as he grows up in Nazi Germany. When we first meet Jojo he’s a political fanatic - his room is plastered with Hitler posters, he’s spouting off facts about how Jewish people aren’t human and he spends most of his time with his imaginary friend, a fictional Hitler. Yet as the film unravels, we meet a kind and thoughtful side to Jojo who is forced to question his beliefs upon discovering that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their walls at home. Taika Waititi once again succeeds in creating a film that perfectly straddles the line between comedy and thoughtfulness, resulting in a piece of cinema that is insightful, emotional and incredibly funny. It’s rare to have the whole cinema audibly laughing and then crying, but this succeeded perfectly.

The film was quirky, fun and above all, easy to watch

I was particularly struck by a scene at the start of the film that showed the boys attending a Hitler Youth camp. The likeness to Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom was undeniable, in colour pallete, comedic tone and camera work. At first glance these were just boy scouts - but Nazified. The boys were excited as they were given knives and taught to always kill Jews, wide eyed and eager, it was a good example of distorted innocence.

The absurdist tone of the rest of the film worked well, equally because ten is a pretty absurd age and because Nazi rules and conventions are absurd too. Taika Waititi plays a petty, over-the-top version of Hitler, who squabbles with Jojo like a jealous school friend rather than the Führer, and his performance was ridiculous and highly enjoyable. The rest of the cast was great too, particularly Scarlett Johansson who plays a kind mother and Sam Rockwell who gets to portray yet another surprising character in his role as Captain Klenzendorf.

Despite its serious subject matter, Jojo Rabbit is at its heart a feel-good movie that happens to be about Nazis. If you’re after an accurate historical picture then maybe this movie isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for a laugh and to come away feeling like you’ve learnt some lessons on friendship and love, this should go on your list - especially if you’re interested in hearing the German version of Bowie and The Beatles. The film was quirky, fun and above all, easy to watch and I can’t think of many people who wouldn’t enjoy it.

Did you know? When Taika Waititi, who is Maori/Jewish, was asked about why he chose to play the role of Adolf Hitler, he said "The answer's simple, what better 'fuck you' to the guy?"

Jojo Rabbit is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 16 January

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