Jojo Rabbit – FNC 2019 Review

Our world is currently in shambles. Neo-Nazis, boundary-breaking invasions, and the fight for humanitarian ethics, all seem like prime indicators of a fate that might just lead us into a third World War. As heat grows between confronting sides, it’s only a matter of time before the purified hate and disdain for others, becomes the prime source of death and endless misery for innocent civilians and bystanders. Taika Waititi has taken notice of this problem for quite some time now, and with his latest feature Jojo Rabbit, he confronts our problematic conflicts by advocating a message against these prejudice perpetrators. Just like the wide majority of his films, Waititi aims at making his audience laugh and cry with his simplistic tales of careless youth. Albeit it’s simplistic childish approach, Jojo Rabbit is a surprisingly mature tween flick, and a return to form for Taika after his confused detour with Marvel and his widely inconsistent take on the comic book genre. 

Opening with a German-language dub of I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles, the film’s first needle drop sets the tone for the events to come. By starting the film with a song that’s associated with a band, who are known for essentially brainwashing susceptible youth with their lyrics of rebellion and lust, it would make sense to establish the film with a tune that’s packed with symbolism and historic foreshadowing. Jojo Rabbit is ultimately a rallying cry against political fanaticism and the dangers of tampering with adolescent innocence. The further the film prances along, the more intense the subject matter becomes. By it’s rewarding finale, reality becomes a tainted world for poor Jojo, as he attempts to make sense of the atrocities committed by his supposed “master race.” 

Expertly executed by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, his thematically dense undertaking is an achievement of performance art. Unlike the wide majority of children’s performances, Davis actually carries the film in comparison with his star-studded co-stars; Stephen Merchant and Rebel Wilson included. Davis and Johansson in particular, expertly project a vivid mother-and-son bond that feels genuinely heartfelt and warmly intimate. Not to mention the highly commendable work from Archie Yates and Thomasin McKenzie, whom of which convey their roles perfectly, with their respective limited screen-time.

As with most great things, there’s always a minuscule obstacle that feels strangely wrong to even mention in the first place. Through it’s clever banter, and roller coaster plot-progression, I can’t help but feel how tonally defunct Jojo Rabbit ended up becoming with its mix of slapstick comedy, and dramatic social-political commentary. On its own, these scenes are highly effective in what they set out to achieve. Pieced together on the other hand, edited as a continuous thread; these moments feel out of place and strangely bizarre.

Jojo Rabbit is a righteous satire on the drastic downsides of mindless patriotism, and the hateful route of painful ideologies. Where most other wartime films fail with their pensive concentration and attention to detail on realism and historically appropriate reenactments; Taika focuses on what’s truly important to his film instead. Through its picturesque production design, and emotionally somber vision, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is a pure-of-heart exercise in radical empathy.

Why hate when we can all love?

Jojo Rabbit screened at this year’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema. The film is now playing in select cinemas.

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