DIRECTOR: taika waititi (thor Ragnarok, hunt for the wilderpeople)
starring: roman griffin davis, thomasin mckenzie, scarlett johanson, and taika waititi
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A young boy in Hitler's army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
Its quite incredible to believe that Taika Waititi has only directed six feature length films. I know - mad right? In New Zealand it seems that he has been tinkering amongst our pop culture for ages, putting Kiwis and our comedic flair and flavour onto our screens. If I had to pick Hunt for the Wilderpeople would probably be my favourite, of all his films. But Jojo Rabbit may have just pipped Wilderpeople. Its pretty majestical.
Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend - Adolf Hitler - Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.
Jojo Rabbit thrusts you deep into the world of Germany gripped by Nazi fanatic nationalism all through the weird and wonderful lens of Taika Waititi. There is a constant barrage of gags from the fantastical lies Jojo and his friends have been told about Jews, the eating of a unicorn head, and Taika as Jojo's imaginary friend - Adolf Hitler himself - to mention but a few. And one of the many things that make this film so very good is the humour feels very Kiwi but also very universal as well. Jojo Rabbit will have you reciting hilarious lines from the film all the way home - my one true mark of a truly funny film.
But this is Taika's most serious film to date - which is a very good thing. He doesn't run from the emotion within the story nor does he fall into the sentimental sappy stuff either. The really tear jerking scenes will blind side you, giving you several swift punches to the old tear ducts.
I don't know how he possibly does it but Taika has a knack of finding young kid actors and bringing out the very best in them. This is young Roman 'Jojo' Griffin Davis' film - even though he is surrounded by a star studded cast he carries this film on his young shoulders. He is brilliantly aided by a wonderful script that perfectly captures what its truly like to be a young boy.
Thomasin McKenzie aptly shows that her wondrous performance in Leave No Trace was no fluke and is an actress to watch with interest; a performance full of wit, heart, and tremendous soul. I think we often forget that there is much more than Black Widow to Scarlett Johansson, and she really does shine here in a very down to earth and at times endearingly quirky performance. Sam Rockwell doesn't have a lot of screen time but what he does get he more than uses adding depth and humanity to what could have been just another Nazi. The last scene he is in made me bawl like a baby. Taika is brilliantly bonkers as Hitler as well, completely stripping him of all his power and villainy.
But Jojo Rabbit slightly pips Wilderpeople for my favourite Taika film because of the subject it bravely tackles, head on. In Boy and Wilderpeople he humorously dances up to, slightly with, and then away from big, serious subjects but here, he confronts them.
In a world of deepening division Taika implores us to look beyond the lines that divide us and find the humanity, no matter how small or faint, in the other. Its found in the relationship between Jojo and Elsa, the Jewish girl hiding in his house, as Jojo's idealogical hatred towards Jewish people is confronted.
And as they spend time together they both begin to understand each other and friendship blossoms. Its not preachy, it doesn't downplay the horrors of war or Nazism, nor is it in your face. It just leaves you with one, very important question - how can you abandon your hatred and bring a little bit of love and light into the world? I reckon thats pretty visionistical.
A constant barrage of laughs and several swift punches to the tear ducts, Jojo Rabbit is Taika's best film yet, one of the best of the year, and an ode to the beauty of humanity. Majestical.