Jojo Rabbit is your basic boy coming of age story. Well, if you’re a German 10-year-old who has bought into the Nazi propaganda machine and your best friend appears to be Adolf Hitler.
The film, marketed as an anti-hate satire, is by New Zealander Taika Waititi. He previously directed Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi wrote and directed Jojo Rabbit, as well as playing a rather insecure Adolf. The movie reminded me a bit stylistically of a Wes Anderson film.
Roman Griffin Davis plays Jojo, who gained his unfortunate last name moniker from an incident at a Nazi youth camp. It was run by Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), assisted by Frau Rahm (Rebel Wilson) and others. This is the young man’s first movie, and he’s very good.
Jojo’s mom Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is raising her son on her own, as her husband is “away.” Rosie is a delightful character, particularly in a fireplace scene. While mom was away, Jojo discovers a young woman, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the attic. Could she possibly be a Jew? And if she is, how should Jojo deal with her?
The emotional rollercoaster of this film should not work. Groan-worthy puns and quips precede more stark content. I suspect some folks will hate it. It certainly won’t connect with everyone.
But Jojo Rabbit worked for my wife, daughter and me when we saw it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on Veterans Day. It was thought-provoking, and occasionally LOL funny. Yet it was also ultimately a takedown of bigotry and prejudice.
Taika Waititi, who is Jewish, appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on October 17. Sometimes, he noted, he’d be directing, forgetting that he was in the Adolf garb. Then he’d catch a glimpse of himself. “I’m not directing, I’m suggesting,” he’d say to the cast.
I previously saw Thomasin McKenzie in the truly great 2018 movie Leave No Trace, which was Oscar-worthy. She, like the director, is a Kiwi, but there’s no sense of her accent in this film.
Isabella Rossellini appeared on the genealogy program Finding Your Roots in 2019. Her DNA test showed that Scarlett Johansson is related to her, certainly on her mother Ingrid Bergman’s side.