Yes I know you hate that word. You hate what’s going on in the world. “I absolutely abhor it. I’m doing my part, protesting at anti-immigration rallies, and I will not rest until I’m done raising enough awareness and making the leaders we elected see sense. They will see the error in their ways, or we’ll vote them out.” Jojo Rabbit opens with a black and white montage of literally armies of everyday people ecstatic and crying in joy to see Adolf Hitler in person. By the law of probability, some of them might have started by protesting him during his rise to power. Some probably died, others who survived turned or were forced to. But at the height of his power, the majority of German electorate did support the Nazi Party ideology. Did the people then know that they were on the wrong side of history?
You’re probably not immune.
For now, let’s dig into the film.
Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler. Yes, I was curious. You’re probably expecting, this being a satirical comedy-drama, that he’ll be infusing this role with his usual New-Zealandic humor, but you’d be surprised how effective Taika can channel the real, terrifying version of the Fuhrer when the script calls for it – which he penned. His screenplay follows this simplistic premise – A jingoistic, 10-year old German kid finds a teenage Jewish girl hiding in his attic. He must decide, over the course of the run-time, between handing her over to the authorities or saving her life. Sound familiar? It is. But also, isn’t.
What really astonished me was how Taika Waititi used satire to handle horrible, devastating acts into everyday nothings. His treatment of a propaganda-inducing training center for 10-year old kids plays nothing more than an athletic camp where things go comically wrong. The humor is effective, outrageous, seriously funny, and it will rustle the feathers off of the sensitives. But it makes you ponder – perhaps this is how the everyday people normalized these brutal acts. Taika disarms us with the humor and then hits us with the truth – that’s the real gem in his script.
The ensemble is not that bad either. I can’t think of another film where everyone is excellently in form. Granted, Rebel Wilson is just playing Rebel Wilson in Later-Stages-Of-World-War-Two-Germany, but this time she does have genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Like Taika’s Hitler, the lead Roman Griffin Davis is 12 years old. Still, he can make me believe he’s an indoctrinated, unfortunately scarred kid so that’s a job well done. Scarlett Johansson who plays his mother Rosie proves why she deserves that Oscar nod with one of her two career-best performances this year. Surprisingly, her motherliness comes out, not when she’s insisting her child eat his dinner and go to sleep, but when she’s playfully teasing him when he’s sulking about.
Sam Rockwell’s part is reminiscent of his role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I see a typecast forming, but I’m not complaining. Thomasin McKenzie, who plays the attic-occupying Jewish girl Elsa Korr, is not your average damsel-in-distress, which is a relief. Her chemistry with the prepubescent protagonist is something which is hundred percent believable, but also something that you hope doesn’t come to fruition at this point in time.
Subtlety disappears with each passing minute as one of the last lines in the movie literally spells out “Perhaps this not a good time to be a Nazi.” Jojo Rabbit is a thought-provokingly fun adventure which balances humor with hard-hitting drama and, at time, sadness. You also get the maximum number of “Heil Hitlers” that can be inserted into a one hour and forty eight minute film without it being too over-the-top.
Rating – 4/5