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JOJO RABBIT gets 8.5/10 Hop to it


Directed by Taika Waititi

Starring  Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson

8.5/10

Growing up is not easy for 10-year old Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis). The older kids at the Hitler Youth Camp tease him when he’s unable to kill a rabbit, he’s afraid that Jews might use “their bat-like wings to fly down his chimney at night”, and then there’s the war, which his mother (Scarlett Johansson) won’t allow him to bravely fight for the Fatherland. At least he has his imaginary friend – Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). When Jojo hears a strange noise upstairs at his house, he finds Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) living in the walls, and things begin to change for him.

From the first notes of Komm gib mir deine Hand played against scenes from Triumph of the Will, effectively equating the wave of Nazi propaganda to Beatlemania as a huge sweeping hysterical force impacting on the social fabric of the nation, you can tell Jojo Rabbit is going to be a clever and divisive piece of cinema. Adapting from Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies, director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows) turns his keen wit towards deriding the evils of fascism, and the lies propaganda can indoctrinate us with. Yet Jojo Rabbit is also a cry to individuals to form their own value systems, based on observation and empathy. Through the course of the film, Johannes’ beliefs about the world are tested, as his childish blind fanaticism is brought into contact with reality. Be that the compassionate beliefs of Jojo’s mother, or the Jewish girl hiding within his house, the paranoia of the Gestapo, or the surreal horrors of war – this is the background that Jojo is forced to grow up in.

As a journey, Jojo Rabbit has an incredible emotional range and precise control of its tone. It’s capable of whisking the audience between comedy and emotional devastation, without either feeling forced or inappropriate, but rather part of the extremes of the surreal situation that Jojo finds himself in. The result of this is that both aspects are more poignant, the laughs acting as a release from the darkness and the destruction while witnessing the horrors of fascism (even through the somewhat filtered lens of a 10-year old boy) makes us cherish the humour and the lighter moments.

Roman Griffin Davis makes an impressive acting debut as the titular Jojo. He brings a childish believability to the role, able to move the character through an incredible emotional range and character growth. It’s impressive as he has to stand up to both the larger than life performance of Taika Waititi’s petulant and childish Hitler and the effortless grace of Scarlett Johansson as his eccentric yet kind mother.

There’s a lot in this film that is worthy of analysis, and in truth, too much to write about here. Suffice to say that Jojo Rabbit is a wonder – a beautiful and multi-layered work that entertains and provokes. Its irreverent and satirical take may challenge some people, but it demands your viewing attention.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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