I have been excited for Jojo Rabbit for some time now. However,when I hear about these independent films that are supposed to be so amazing, many times they are fine, but not to the level that everyone claims. There have been several this year that fall into that category for me. I worried that I was looking forward to Jojo Rabbit too much.
After seeing this, I can safely say that Jojo Rabbit is utterly brilliant and one of my absolute favorite films of 2019.
I can understand the tentative nature of people who may not think it is a good idea to have a film where a young boy has an imaginary friend who is Hitler. I have to say it caught me off-guard when I first heard about it too. But with Taika Waititi attached as writer and director, my anxieties soothe. I loved Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows so I believed that, if anyone could navigate the issues, it would be Waititi.
Anyone who lists the version of Hitler in this film as a reason to hate it has already made up their mind that they were going to hate it. Taika Waititi does a masterful job of playing this “Adolf”, the imaginary friend of Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year old German boy who idolizes the Fuehrer and joins the Hitler Youth.
After an unexpected result, Jojo discovers that his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a Jewish girl name Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls of their home, shaking the boy’s preconceived notions to their core.
The performances of this movie are off the frickin’ chart. Let me start with the actor playing Jojo, Roman Griffin Davis. This is Griffin’s feature film debut and that is totally unbeleivable because everything in this film depends on this young actors ability to deliver his lines and carry the emotional heft of the scenes. There are some moments of levity that Davis pulls off brilliantly playing opposite Waititi and, also, Sam Rockwell, who plays a heavy drinking and quickly sinking Nazi Captain Klenzendorf. Yet, Davis has some deep and life-affirming moments with Scarlett Johansson as well.
Still, the heart of the film is probably the relationship and the interactions between Jojo and Elsa. These two young actors make you fall in love with them in one of the most unconventional ways imaginable. Thomasin McKenzie is a star in the making. Her every minute on screen lights it up and you cannot help but notice how effervescent she is.
There were also a couple of scenes that caught me completely off guard and nearly caused me to break down. No spoilers, but the emotion in this movie is powerful and elevates this above just another comedy.
It is a comedy, though and it is laugh out loud funny all the way through. Stephen Merchant appeared as a Gestapo S.S. agent and he brings a ton of humor while still being as tense as any moments in the movie. It also led to a ridiculously funny “Heil Hitler” scene. Rebel Wilson gets to do some broad comedy as Fraulein Rahm, an assistant to Captain Klenzendorf. Wilson brings some fantastic physical comedy in a supporting manner.
Then, Taika Waititi’s performance as Adolf was note perfect, and it had to be because he was walking a dangerous line with this role, but Waititi understood that humor allows one to transcend almost anything and that the satire of Adolf Hitler, one of the worst monsters to ever step on the planet, can be used to spread a message of anti-hate.
Jojo Rabbit delivered on every expectation that I had and it is a damn near perfect movie. I loved this film and Taika Waititi has done it again, bringing a vision to a story that sounded as if it had plenty of hand grenades. I don’t think anything was ever going to catch up for me to Avengers: Endgame, but Jojo Rabbit is right there.