Pros: cast; Scarlett Johansson game; the director in the role of an imaginary Fuhrer; satire; staging and colorful props; soundtrack Cons: editing does not always work in the desired dramatic or comedic tone Jojo Rabbit / Jojo Rabbit
Genre comedy, drama
Directed by Taika Waititi
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis (Johannes “Jojo” Betzler), Scarlett Johansson (Rosie Betzler), Thomasin McKenzie (Elsa Corr), Taika Waititi (imaginary Adolf Hitler), Sam Rockwell (Captain Klenzendorf), Rebel Wilson (Fräulein Rahm), Steven Merchant (Captain Dirtz), Alfie Allen (Finkel), etc.
Companies TSG Entertainment, Piki Films, Defender Films
Year of release 2020
The film takes place during World War II. Ten-year-old boy Jojo, under the influence of propaganda, becomes interested in the ideology of Nazi Germany. He is full of enthusiasm and desire to become a real Nazi, but sometimes he lacks the courage to demonstrate this. In moments of doubt, he communicates with an imaginary friend – Adolf Hitler, who gives the hero dubious instructions. In order to prove his loyalty to the Fuhrer, Jojo, with his characteristic naivety, dreams of one day finding and handing over a Jew to the authorities. The boy does not yet realize that he will soon meet a Jewish girl for real, and he certainly cannot predict how he will behave.
Jojo Rabbit was released during a fortunate period when cinema was free to satirize any topic, especially Nazi beliefs. True, it took several years for the full implementation of this idea. It all started in 2011, when director Taika Waititi was inspired by the book “Caged Heaven” by Christina Leunens and created a script about a boy going through growing up in a war.
The original story was quite dark, so Waititi rewrote it with his signature humorous twist. Taika came up with an imaginary Hitler, who is the main character, and the child mentally endows him with silly unrealistic qualities. When the script was ready, not a single film company supported the director; everyone unanimously refused to film the film with the Fuhrer.
The following years, Taika Waititi worked on the films “Real Ghouls” (What We Do in the Shadows) and “Thor: Ragnarok”, which clearly demonstrate his sense of humor. After successful films, representatives of Fox Searchlight Pictures approached the director – they were suddenly inspired by the idea of making “Jojo Rabbit”, provided that Waititi himself reincarnated as Hitler. The proposal was accepted, and so an unexpectedly touching picture appeared, in which comedy coexists with military drama.
The shooting style, richness of colors and staging of some scenes in “Jojo Rabbit” will certainly remind you of Wes Anderson’s films, which have their own harmless reality. In the new film, Taika Waititi uses similar techniques that emphasize that the story is depicted through the eyes of a child. This makes everything around only half serious and partly funny.
This is clearly confirmed by Waititi himself, who playfully fools around on camera, thereby ridiculing the dictator who did not allow himself to display frivolous behavior. But before us is only an imaginary leader, therefore anything can happen to him, even a casual flight out of the window.
The satire in the film targets all followers of Nazi ideology, so the actions of some characters are brought to the point of absurdity. The nonsense promoted to the younger generation is portrayed differently by Rebel Wilson and Sam Rockwell, so these actors get the most jokes.
With its laid-back delivery and irreverent comedy, Jojo Rabbit may feel like it’s just a half-hearted comedy that will flounder around with funny moments for the rest of the film. This is wrong. As the plot develops, military actions remind of themselves, and the main character gradually changes his worldview, so youthful carefreeness does not seem eternal.
Although the main character is used to communicating with an imaginary friend, his real mentor is his mother. She is played by Scarlett Johansson, who charmingly fits into the 1940s and portrays her character absolutely wonderfully. All the scenes in which the actress appears are filled with love of life, maternal care and a sense of superiority over the established regime. Even if Johansson doesn’t win an Oscar, the nomination for Best Supporting Actress marks her inspiring work in the film.
Jojo Rabbit is also up for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Editing. The latter is unlikely to be a winner, since some scenes fall slightly out of the general pace, switch quickly between each other, and sometimes do not always work in the desired dramatic or comedic tone.
The film is indeed not mounted as cheerfully as it might seem from the trailer, but in the end this does not make it unlucky. In many moments, music helps significantly – this is the soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (wrote compositions for Marvel films and the cartoon Coco). Also adding to the mood are German versions of the songs “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles and “Heroes” by David Bowie.
As strange as it may sound, Jojo Rabbit, with its imaginary dictator, is a sweet movie about growing up and becoming disillusioned with what seemed right. The film does not show the real horror of Nazism, but with the help of satire, with childish spontaneity, it goes through the ideology, raising it to the point of meaninglessness.
The film will appeal to fans of the visual style in which Wes Anderson works. Director Taika Waititi manages to charm, make you laugh and point out the wrong directions.