Taika Waitti is one of the best directors today when it comes to children. Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy are two striking examples of the great work he is able to do with younger actors. His movies have also shown that Waititi is a master at dealing with deep emotional subject matter. Jojo Rabbit sees the New Zealand director once again use his deft touch to deliver a touching story.
Taking place during the closing days of World War II, Jojo Rabbit is about Jojo Betzler. Young Jojo is picked on by the other Nazi youth. When he makes a shocking discovery at home, he and his imaginary friend Adolph are forced to confront what they fear and what they do not know.
The performances in Jojo Rabbit are outstanding. Roman Griffin Davis gets better as the film progresses until he his carrying entire scenes on his own. Scarlet Johansson does a wonderful job as Rosie Betzler. Jojo’s mother is sarcastic and vulnerable. She delivers some of the funniest movies of the line and is incredibly passionate in her beliefs. Johansson does a magnificent job of making the audience care about Rosie.
Waititi’s performance as Adolph is a show stealer. Mixing over the top theatrics, wacky slapstick, and modern comedic sensibility, Waititi makes his performance one of the most memorable of the year. He is incredibly hilarious in Jojo Rabbit. The downside is some may miss him when he is not onscreen. This would be a huge mistake, as the movie is much greater than just one stellar performance.
This also leads to something I have not heard much of (though we received a Twitter comment shaming us for being excited about Jojo Rabbit). Even though the movie takes place during WWII and has Adolph Hitler, it never makes him out to be a lovable goof. It also never downplays the Holocaust. There was never a time in the movie that I thought was remotely offensive.
Jojo Rabbit’s story will tug at the heartstrings while also making people smile. It sounds like a typical coming of age story, and in many ways it is. There is the discovery of love, questioning accepted facts, and searching for an identity. Where Jojo Rabbit differs is in its strong writing. Effortlessly weaving together comedy, romance, and drama, the movie explores growing up in a way similar movies do not. This is not a cynical look at growing up (though the movie is filled with snide jabs about WWII German attitudes.) It tenderly tells a story of a boy becoming a man.
The film works so well due to all the chemistry. Jojo and Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) are great together. As events unfold, feelings and attitudes change and the two adapt with to their surroundings.. Some of the most touching scenes in Jojo Rabbit are between the two and every moment the two have together will leave an impression. Once again, the strong performances make audiences care.
Jojo Rabbit is a great example of a movie that does everything right. The entire cast work off each other well and the story is engaging and heartwarming. Waititi’s film is not just another WWII parody. It is a strong story everyone can relate to.