Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), 10 years old; at the beginning of the film, he is ready to become a man. He is a Nazi in his mind because of his many swastikas and his fanaticism of Hitler- who also happens to be his imaginary friend.
Taika Waititi plays Adolf Hitler, wrote, and directed this satirical comedy-drama about Jojo, nicknamed Jojo Rabbit, a German boy at the end of World War II. Now, it is important to remember that this is the end of the war, meaning the Germans are losing the war, and they are very desparate.
At the beginning of Jojo Rabbit (2019), Jojo is on his way to a young, Nazi training camp for adolescents to learn and understand the dangers of the war the adults are fighting. In other words, they're learning how to go to war themselves and help in the ongoing battle. Most of the comedic satire of the film happens in the beginning. Taika's Hitler was one of the aspects of the film I was most worried about. However, I do not think anyone except Waititi himself could have pulled off this preposterous hilarity.
Hitler, like many of the Nazi's portrayed of the film, are cruel but idiotic in their nature and malice. I found myself laughing not only at the absurdity but at the desensitization of the characters. With that being said, I did not find it as funny as many others in my theater. I did laugh, but this film worked better as a heart-felt drama than anything else. Hitler does serve a purpose in Jojo's life, though, and it was still very moving. In the beginning, "Hitler" is who Jojo goes to for advice. His father is gone and his mother is busy most of the time, so this Hitler is the manifestation of a child who needs advice, and he doesn't trust to ask anyone else except the imaginary dictator in his head who he has been taught "knows all."
Speaking of mother, Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of Rosie, Jojo's mom, is possibly one of the most charming performances of the year. She is not as much part of the film as I thought, but her impact is strong nonetheless. Watching her on screen made my heart swell. As an only-child who grew up with a single mother most of my life, I know that the bond between mother and child is complex but also incomparably special. It was humbling to watch onscreen. She not only was a wonderful, understanding, and patient mother, but she was also a standing beacon of a lesson of "doing what you can" and a hope that makes you dance. Her impact lasts from her first moment on screen to the very end.
Each person delivers an outstanding performance, from Roman's 'Jojo,' to Scarjo's 'Rosie,' Taika's 'Hitler,' Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, and especially Archie Yates' 'Yorki.' Yorki and Jojo's friendship is a pure ball of, well, let's just say it adorableness. That is the best word I can describe about what I felt with these characters. Yorki was not like Jojo's sidekick, he was Jojo's compadre. They were best friends, and Yorki is a positive ray of light throughout the story that pops in to remind you of goodness and youth.
The overpowering theme of this film is love. And that's what brings me to possibly one of the best parts of the film overall, which is Thomasin Mckenzie's portrayal of Elsa and her relationship with Jojo. Love is fantasized, immortalized, felt, and explored in this film in an innocent yet mature way. Elsa is a young Jewish girl living within Jojo's walls, and upon first meeting her, he is terrified. Expecting to see claws, fangs, horns and more, he is perplexed to see a beautiful girl in place of what he thought Jews should look like. It takes Jojo much of the span of the film to understand love and it's mystery that cannot be explained. Yes, Jojo experiences love on many fronts of the film, from his mom, to Elsa, to Yorki and more. And more than that, he learns that love doesn't make sense all the time, but you have to move with it in your heart at all times to get through the toughest times of life. As we watch JoJo go through that epiphany, it results in a gratifying ending that makes you want to dance and cry altogether.
What I also appreciated was that more than Elsa's role in the film to break JoJo's indoctrination and offer a new POV, but her role also never let you lose perspective. No matter how bullied JoJo was, I knew there was a girl hiding and malnourished, who had it much worse, and it was her who I was rooting for as well. Her freedom is just as important an aspect of the film as anything else, and you as the audience can imagine the future she will go off to live- from driving to staring tigers in the eyes.
By the end of the film, I have been on a rollercoaster of emotions. I have laughed, but more than anything, I have felt love and I have cried... a lot. Seriously, once the credits began to roll, I was shaking with tears and laughter. The theater erupted with clapping, and I could hear other movie-goers sniffling. There was a special air in the theater, the kind where everyone was equally invested in the story, they all experienced the same emotions, and you can literally feel the appreciation and shared movement. It's everything you look forward to in going to the movies.
This massively character-driven and love-infested film succeeded in its purpose. Each actor delivered their lines admirably and shared a bond and relationship that was not only believable, but captured your heart and pulled you deeper into the story. Not only that, but the setting and the costume design of the film was pleasing for the eyes and a beautiful addition to the story. Each character was designed thoroughly from their personalities to their dialogue and their costumes. It was a wonderful spectacle. The direction of the film and score were matched up perfectly, and it made my top 5 watchlist of the year.
Jojo Betzler- by the end of the film, he is ready to do what he can today and every day.
starring, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin Mckenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, Archie Yates, and more
written and directed by, Taika Waititi and Christine Leunens
Jacindable Rating: ★★★★★
My name is Jacinda, and I am a film lover and student. Check out more of my pieces at Flipscreened!
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