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"Jojo Rabbit" Taika Waititi

by Steven Daniszewski - Contributing Writer
Tue, Nov 12th 2019 06:00 pm

“Jojo Rabbit” features a gay Nazi, a blindly fanatic ten year old, a single mother harboring a Jewish girl, a buffonish Gestapo squad, a seemingly immortal child soldier and Adolf Hitler, imaginary friend. If that isn’t enough — it may make you cry or at least feel something emotional occasionally. It will cause laughter at the least and, at most, send you on a roller coaster of emotions. 

It is a brilliantly surreal experience watching Hitler merrily giggling while running alongside a young boy in the woods, the image of which is enough to send you laughing. This is the first time in a long time I’ve heard a theater full of people laughing throughout the movie — even when a few minutes earlier you wanted to comfort those on screen or break down with them. 

Life does not give you time to breathe between events and emotions and neither does this film. The use of imaginary Hitler is rationed like potatoes near the end of the war; it’s used sparingly for comic relief as well as a litmus test for the character growth of Jojo, the 10-year-old main character, whose blind fanaticism clashes with his mother’s equally strong belief in what is right. 

 The cast — from Scarlet Johanson to first-time child actor Roman Griffin Davis — use every minute of screen-time it has to paint a complex setting and build even a Hitler youth leader into a redeemed Nazi with a hinted gay love life. Some state the film suddenly collapses in the end — but this is a movie about a boy indoctrinated by Hitler’s Youth, whose entire worldview is composed of propaganda; events happen as suddenly to him as they do to the audience. Personally, to me, the rest of the characters act like they belong to a company just about to go under. Just phoning it in as long as they receive their checks. 

On to the elephant in the room — there are a lot of people which this movie simply won’t sit right with for many reasons; but please, do not turn away from this film on the basis of thinking it is symphazing with the Nazis, or that it’s in bad taste. By laughing at Nazis and those of their ilk, those who follow them, do we take away their power to haunt our collective culture. Elsa — the girl you will meet only if you see this movie — has something to say about the failure of the Nazis, and the strength of those who are solely cast as victims. 

It is not without its flaws — employing cringe humor is not a personal favorite — and a few scenes verge on uncomfortableness or bad taste, even for a dark comedy. A tad bit of inconsistencies will make you scratch your head, or wonder how they all added up in the end, until you remember it’s a comedy. 

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