TIFF 2019: “Jojo Rabbit” Review

TIFF 2019: “Jojo Rabbit” Review

Jojo Rabbit is the much-anticipated film by Taika Waititi starring Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Roman Griffin DavisThomasin McKenzieRebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, and Taika Waititi. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten-year-old boy growing up in Nazi Germany with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Jojo is a young and indoctrinated youth of Hitler’s Germany and is more than excited to go to a camp where his instructor, Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), will teach him all about being the best soldier he can be. He shares his excitement with his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). As Jojo discovers more about himself, the world, and even his mother, he is faced with some real decisions about what he believes in and what is right and wrong. Through his interactions with a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), Jojo begins to understand that life is not so black and white.

Directed, written by and starring Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit combines the absurd and hilarious to bring us a poignant message about acceptance, love, and learning from our past mistakes. What makes it work so well is the balance between humor and the very serious topic on which the film is based. Starting from the very beginning of the film, Taika Waititi sets up exactly what type of film it is. We get a version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sung in German with images from Nazi German of the Heil Hitler salute. There are moments in the film where I laughed out loud and one of them involves a metal collection day and cardboard boxes.

The performances in the film are spectacular, especially from our young actors, Thomasin McKenzie and Roman Griffin Davis. Much of the film relies on their abilities to make the audience feel powerful emotions and they handle it with such ease. Taika Waititi plays and overly exaggerated and somewhat childish version of Hitler that Jojo has imagined in his mind. The exchange between Taika and Roman are some of the best moments of the film and provide a great deal of humor. The film is so funny and quick-witted that you miss some of the lines because you’re still laughing at the previous joke. Scarlett Johansson’s character’s relationship with Jojo is at the heart of the film as well. She may be a clown and joke a lot with Jojo, but she is being the best mother she knows how to be. She is protecting her son from all that she can, while still trying to keep him innocent.

The message that permeates from the film is a message of remembrance and of hope that we can still strive to become better than we were without forgetting the past. Cloaked in hilarious jokes about Hitler, Nazis, and Jews is the message that we can’t allow anything like this to ever happen again and that human life, all human life, is truly sacred. Jojo Rabbit is hilarious with a weighty message that resonates with audiences today and begs us to remember the past.

Written by
Ashley Menzel is an avid film lover and lives in Los Angeles, CA. She loves foreign films and dramas and reading books that have film adaptations. Her favorite movie of all time is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She loves Doctor Who, Supernatural, iZombie, and Grimm.

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