Though it may not be a movie designed for the masses, I for one found Jojo Rabbit to be highly original and capable of evoking a wide array of emotions.
Ten year old Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is living in Nazi Germany during the end of World War II. Jojo loves his country and wants nothing more than to be one of the people who devote their lives to saving it. On the weekend of his first day at the camp training him to be a member of the Hitler Youth, Jojo is very nervous, and needs guidance and assurance from his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). With a boost of confidence from Hitler, Jojo is invigorated and ready to take on the weekend.
When Jojo arrives at camp, it is nothing like he anticipated. He is bullied and pressured by the older members of the Hitler Youth to do terrible things, making Jojo slightly question his dedication to the cause, but not enough to make him think of abandoning it. In a series of unexpected events, Jojo finds himself working on the sidelines for the Hitler Youth, meaning he is spending a lot more time at home and with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). At first, Jojo is furious by this outcome, but it's not long before he realizes there is more going on at home than what he expected, causing doubts to start filling his mind about his patriotic devotion to the Nazi Party and the dictator he idolizes so much.
Jojo Rabbit is without a doubt one of the most unique and unusual films I have ever seen. It takes a horrific and devastating topic like the Holocaust, and somehow turns it into a laugh out loud comedy, without being blatantly offensive. It is a very daring and bold feat to say the least. When I first saw the trailer, I really questioned how Jojo Rabbit would be able to pull off its concept without coming off as distasteful, but it piqued my interest enough that I had to check it out. What really struck me as the most bizarre, was Jojo's imaginary friend being Adolf Hitler. I couldn't even begin to comprehend how the movie was going to tackle this idea and make it tangible and not overly ridiculous or objectionable. That being said, it wasn't long into the film that the outlandish concept began to make sense to me, and I started to fully buy into why a young boy would choose such a heinous human being as their imaginary friend. Without divulging too much of the plot, all I can write is that it says a lot about Jojo's initial beliefs and the journey he takes throughout the story. It also taps into the truths of the ideals and fantasies we all have about our childhood idols, whomever they may be.
This film has a star studded cast, some veterans of the comic world and others who have spent more time focused on dramatic roles, and they all come together to bring fantastic performances, but for me, none of them could top the stunning debuts of the children who filled the cast. With every line and every emotion, Roman Griffin Davis had me completely transfixed to the screen. He was able to deliver his scenes, both of humor and heartbreak, with astounding comedic timing and poignancy. The same can be said for Archie Yates, who played Jojo's best friend Yorki. Yates doesn't have near the amount of screen time as Davis, but every moment he's in the film is hilarious, adorable, but also tense, as you fear for his character's well being as he is being put into cruel and dangerous circumstances involving the war, that are well beyond his years. This film really hit the jackpot with its young performers, and I truly don't think the film would have landed as well as it did without them.
Being in the theater watching Jojo Rabbit, was certainly one of the more bizarre experiences I've had. There were times where the audience, myself included, filled the theater with uproarious laughter, but then mere seconds later, it would be eerily quiet, as we were all taking in the chilling scenes from the Holocaust and witnesses the recreations of the violent and vile acts committed by the Nazis. It was a film where, by the end of it, you felt drained, because you had run the gamut of all your body's capable emotions. Though Jojo Rabbit doesn't fully push the envelope too far, it does have it's moments where you are baffled at how you could be laughing while watching a film centered around Nazi Germany. It is also hard to ignore the appalling truth that can be found behind the comedy, but I believe that was the movie's full intention. No amount of humor can mask the travesties that occurred during the Holocaust, and I don't believe Jojo Rabbit was trying to hide it. More than anything, it was an effort to exploit the harmful effects of hatred and bigotry, and show the power of acceptance and kindness.
I'm sure there are many people out there who have watched this film and have been highly offended by it. There were countless times throughout the movie where I could pinpoint the exact moments where people would have stormed out of the theater in an exasperated rage. Jojo Rabbit certainly isn't going to be for everyone's taste, but it is a film that sends an immensely important message and does it with flare and style.