‘Jojo Rabbit’ Review: Most Surprising, Controversial Film of the Year

When my boyfriend came to visit me in New York City a couple of weeks ago, he wanted us to see Jojo Rabbit. At the time is was only in select theaters and he likes us to be the first to see any new film. However, I had mixed feelings about seeing a satirical black comedy set during WWII. Hitler is the imaginary friend of a little boy? The main character is a Hitler Youth? I wasn’t sure if it was something I would enjoy. Despite my reservations, I decided to see the latest work of Taika Waititi, credible director of such films as Thor: Ragnarok and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Kimberly French, USA Today

The first half of the movie I was somewhat uncomfortable as I dealt with my own feelings of what is appropriate and what is not in this form of comedy. As Rotten Tomatoes said, “[this] blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste – but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault.” That it was. Of course I would expect nothing less from Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell, and Taika Waititi, who appeared playing Hitler.

The snobbery of filmmaking is this ludicrous idea that comedy isn’t art or that comedy can’t change people – that you basically have to depress an audience for it to be meaningful.

Taika Waititi; writer, director Jojo Rabbit

As we entered into the world of Jojo, played beautifully by Roman Griffin Davis in his breakout role, we enter a world of innocence and imagination. I found myself becoming engrossed in the story and the lives of the characters. We first meet Jojo and his best friend, Yorki, as they become a part of Hitler Youth, led by Wilson and Rockwell. We also meet Jojo’s single mother, played by Johansson and his imaginary friend, Hitler. Jojo is a passionate Hitler Youth and is shocked to find a Jewish girl his mother had been hiding in the attic.

Watching these difficult, historical events unfold through the eyes of child, left me with with a deeper understanding of a child’s perspective of the world. Jojo is hearing propaganda from his imaginary friend about the monster in the attic, yet, in reality, the imaginary friend is the monster. We follow Jojo as he tries to understand everything happening around him. He is experiencing things no child should have to go through, yet he maintains his childlike faith as he learns the truth.

I do not want to spoil any of the surprises for you in Jojo Rabbit; however, I must mention my new appreciation of Sam Rockwell. I first saw Sam in Matchstick Men with Nicolas Cage as a small town con artist. The last few years I have seen him in such roles as a police officer in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and a rival to Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. I am beginning to notice a trend with Rockwell: he plays the annoying character who doesn’t seem to know anything going on the entire movie to being the hero in the last few minutes. Don’t change Sam, this niche serves you well.

Jojo is not everyone’s cup of tea. I didn’t think it would be mine. However, from one writer to another, I commend Taika Waititi for stepping outside of the comfort zone of Hollywood and writing a coming-of-age comedy most wouldn’t tackle. Jojo Rabbit is one of the first movies in a while that I genuinely felt the same emotions as Jojo. Superb acting, phenomenal writing, and an unforgettable story make Jojo Rabbit a movie I would see again.

Jojo Rabbit hits theaters nationwide yesterday and I would love to hear your thoughts if you see it!

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