Friday, February 7, 2020

JoJo Rabbit review

If you look at the trailers for JoJo Rabbit and know the director-writer Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) you would think that it was a comedy. Well it's kind of. It's a dramedy. I mean the boy protagonist's imaginary friend is Hitler. And Hitler is not portrayed as a mustache twirling villain but a goofy racist.

JoJo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten year old boy living in Nazi Germany and a member of the Hitler Youth. His mother (Scarlett Johansson) resides with him and is his primary caretaker. Her husband and JoJo's father is missing on the Italian Front. Life for JoJo is a struggle with the rationing and his clumsy physicality. JoJo is far from the Aryan model and eventually he is tasked to work for the local Hitler Youth
commander Captain Klenzendorfm (Sam Rockwell) doing odd jobs. One day he discovers a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) living and hiding in the house. JoJo learns that his mother is hiding her. The conflict is whether to turn her in. Oh, yeah I forgot JoJo has an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. (Taika Waititi) And well Hitler tries to indoctrinate JoJo about Jews and Elsa.

The cast is wonderful. Roman Griffin Davis shows us that children can act. At times he is a dyed in the wool Nazi yet he keeps somewhat of an open mind after meeting Elsa. Thomasin Mckenzie's Elsa is lonely, hurt and scared. Scarlett Johansson is the loving and moral mother that is the model of best of humanity. Sam Rockwell is his usual great stuff. He's a German officer who's sidelined because of having only one eye that works. He's bitter as he's not the perfect Aryan anymore. Taika Waititi's Hitler is goofy and as expected is a plain old antisemite.

Waitti's always had great comic timing. Here he makes Hitler almost likable. But Waititi's screenplay based on Christine Leunens's novel Caging Skies has some serious fish to fry. It's an essay on bigotry, antisemitism, loneliness and love. JoJo's difficult relationship with Elsa is also a study of the human condition. Waititi has crated a funny, warm and human film. I laughed and I cried.

JoJo Rabbitt is one of the best movies of 2019. It's a beautiful study of the weaknesses and strengths of humans. The grade is A.

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