Sunday, October 4, 2020

JoJo Rabbit Delivers Laughs Through Tears

Taika Waititi as Hitler and Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo in Jojo Rabbit
    Disney / 20th Century Fox

JoJo Rabbit Delivers Laughs Through Tears    

I really wanted to tear this movie apart in my review. Looking forward to collecting as much ammunition as possible, I went into the theater expecting to be thoroughly disgusted with JoJo Rabbit. But instead, Taika Waititi's take on a German ten-year old boy's experience of the waning days of World War 2 actually struck the right balance of satire and drama. The main character Johannes Betzler, nicknamed JoJo Rabbit, was perfectly played by Roman Griffin Davis as a naive kid drawn into the Nazi Hitler Youth ideology. Oh, and by the way, JoJo Rabbit has an imaginary best friend - Adolf Hitler himself, played by Taika Waititi.

The imaginary Fuhrer actually represents the image of a Hitler Youth mentality, as perceived ideally by JoJo Rabbit. In reality, all this imaginary friend does is get JoJo in trouble. The movie is full of colorful characters, not the least of which is JoJo's mom - Rosie Betzler, masterfully portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. Rosie sees her son as an indoctrinated follower of a falling regime, unwilling to fully share her understanding and all that she does with him. But she is protective of her son and often clashes with Captain Klenzendorf, played by Sam Rockwell, when her son's well being is threatened.   

A large component of JoJo Rabbit's raison d'être is the deconstruction of Nazi ideology regarding how Jewish people are perceived. More specifically, how JoJo perceives Jewish people before and after he comes face to face with one. He accidentally discovers that his mother Rosie, is sheltering a Jewish girl in their attic. Elsa, played by Thomasin McKenzie, was a friend of JoJo's late sister Inga, and Rosie just couldn't let her fall victim to the Nazi regime. Here, the perfectly incendiary screenplay of how a kid's first real belief in the regime, and in his mother, crumble to transform him into a better human being is undeniably one of this movie's greatest attributes.

Important Meaning Within JoJo Rabbit

There is a plethora of meaning within JoJo Rabbit, which I will not divulge entirely. I will leave a lot of it to be discovered by those readers who will go and see the movie. But, I will give some potent highlights here. When Rosie and JoJo come up to city's center square, they see several people that have been hanged. At this point JoJo asks his mom "What did they do?", to which she replies "What they could do". Here we see a ten year old boy confronted with death, and his mother's explanation offers no solace. It is an important departure from the regime, which labeled the condemned as traitors, deserving of death. Rosie attempts to show her son that war and violence are temporary, and love is important - it perseveres, and all she wants to do after the violence subsides is dance. 

The fact that we are watching the story of a ten year old kid, is conveyed very clearly. JoJo Rabbit cannot even tie his own shoelaces, requiring assistance from his mother. This symbolism is indicative of sharing with the audience that this kid's beliefs are not fully developed yet and not to judge him harshly. Most importantly the movie challenges the audience, young and old, to get in touch with their ten year old selves and be open to challenge their existing beliefs to confirm that they are humane - to be able to grow as human beings. JoJo is only able to tie shoelaces much later in the movie, when he is grown as a human being and actually cares.

The propaganda machine is also clearly represented in this movie. JoJo Rabbit first shows this at the Hitler Youth camp, where boys are encouraged to be trained in combat related activities, while the girls are coached for child birth. The mob mentality is so well crafted, that you see swarms of youths following through with training, even when it doesn't make any logical or practical sense. Here Fraulein Rahm, played by Rebel Wilson, plays a crucial role in disseminating the ridiculous. Frauline Rahm is also instrumental at other times, including the follow-up at the Hitler Youth headquarters, where she instructs JoJo should walk the 'clones'. The satirical absurdity of walking the clones refers to the propaganda machine of keeping the morale up despite an unwinnable situation.   

Tragedy, Love, and Dancing 

As young JoJo finds himself challenging his Nazi beliefs, he begins to experience the very emotions Rosie told him about. He finds that he's not beyond ability to love another person. JoJo also confronts the Gestapo who search his parents' house thoroughly, despite his father being an army man and himself being a devoted Hitler Youth member. I urge the viewer from the opening scenes of JoJo Rabbit to pay attention to the shoes and shoelaces, because the big gasp moment in this movie is downright heartbreaking and hits a powerful tone regarding what a person believes and whom a person follows.

Having experienced these new emotions, JoJo Rabbit is no longer the child we see at the beginning of the movie. He is now an emotionally driven, if still somewhat immature, person who understands love, loss, and the value of life. And that imaginary friend, who has gotten him in so much trouble through all the bad advice, JoJo finally stands up to him in a big way. The erosion of the kid's belief system coincides with the Allied assault on the heart of Nazi Germany, where JoJo witnesses the futility and sheer madness of the last gasp Volksturm defense of the city. Unwilling to follow the Nazi instructions, he flees the scene of the battle.

After all of the fighting, JoJo has a very important choice to make - to lie or not to lie. If JoJo Rabbit will tell the truth, there's a good chance that he will not see his love again. But if he lies, the girl he loves may never forgive him. It is a situation that displays the kid's youth and inexperience, but also his ability to defy his own beliefs and care for what's truly important to him. The silver lining in all of the events happening around him is that he gets to experience the very thing his mother looked forward to all this time - something that JoJo didn't understand, until he finally experienced for himself.  

JoJo Rabbit to Johannes Betzler

The quick progression, and forced transformation, of a naive kid into a more cognizant adolescent is very well scripted and executed here. All the characters in the timeline of this movie provide important, if not always large, nuances in JoJo's development. By the very end, you can see the main character as a stand up individual who doesn't need his imaginary friend anymore to make key decisions in his life. Despite his wrong decisions, JoJo Rabbit is fortunate to have the people around him recognize his youth and inexperience, giving him significant leniency and help. This good fortune, allows our main character to become the man his mother always wished he would become.  

As far as risky topic satire is concerned, JoJo Rabbit shines and entertains at every corner. The movie as a coming of age story of a child who is indoctrinated in hateful ideology, but develops beyond it with the help of his mother and others along his journey. Rotten Tomatoes' critics have given this movie a certified fresh grade of 79% approval, while Metacritic has given it a mixed score of 58 so far. I will have to give it a better score than the latter. Despite the one crude joke, indicative of a ten year old boy, this original movie entertains and draws tears from its audience. Here Taika Waititi was able to successfully combine historical satire through the lens of a ten year old boy and provide important message on hate and intolerance. I give it a top score of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

Until next time, grab your popcorn, milk duds, turn off the phone, and enjoy the movie.

27 comments:

  1. Amazon Prime keeps recommending this movie to be and I haven’t given it a shot yet. Your post helped me decide I really do want to watch it. The concept sounds intriguing. And popcorn and milk duds are my favorite haha!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have never heard of this. So weird to have Adolf Hitler as your imaginary best friend. I am definitely going to check this out. I am curious now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, this look interesting. will check this out over the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. nice looking movie...when it comes to hitler movies i expect war like movies such as schidlers list or saving private ryan....but this one looks like a comedy....is it already available on netflix or any flatform....will watch it with family

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds like an interesting movie, thanks for your views on it and the info on the movie. I am not sure if I will watch it as I have a huge list of "to watch" movies at the moment, but this provided a lot of great info.

    ReplyDelete
  6. sounds like a nice movie to me. I love satire and jokes on the edge, it is right up valley. I could totally miss it if it not your review, thanks

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think I've seen this title but paid it no mind. But now, I might have to see it reading your review! Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've never heard this movie but this movie looks great to watch! I would love to check this film.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for making my night by sharing such a wonderful post with me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sounds like a good movie to watch! Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've heard of this before. Thank you for the summary, I should definitely check it out :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sounds like a interesting movie and i was also surprised how you said a lot of good stuff about if. Now, I’m convinced to watch! Hahaha. Hopefully the cinemas will be safe again.

    ReplyDelete
  13. ohh wow...a nice lovely sharing from you about this interesting movie, after reading here, am so so looking forward to check out this movie. cheers, SiennyLovesDrawing

    ReplyDelete
  14. This seem interesting movie to watch even I just hear about JoJo rabbit from you now. Thank you for the review!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I’ve never heard of this before and seems like an interesting one to watch. But I’ll after the admit, I’m a bit hesitant.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have seen this movie been recommended a lot of times. I'll give it a chance.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I haven't heard of this movie before but after reading your blog it's going on my watchlist.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Scary hiw Hitler stays so relevant

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great review of the movie. It's been on my list for ages to watch it and now you've reminded me so thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Nice review. I don't watch movies often but this movie seems worth to watch on the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I haven't watched it yet and I think I will line this up and watch. Thanks for your honest review.

    ReplyDelete
  22. When I saw the picture I thought I wont like this or it will be average. Well, your writing skill is great and I guess I am gonna watch it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I struggled to read this review of JoJo Rabbit not because you gave a bad review in anyway but rather that it is still in my queue of movies I REALLY want to see and I wanted to avoid any spoilers. The whole premise seems quite intriguing to me. Cant wait to finally watch it!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Never heard of this movie before, great summary.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Quite unfamiliar but thank you for giving me a summary of this movie in the Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Jojo Rabbit looks like a great movie! I am going to look for it...thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I feel like I’ve read this post and commented before 🤣 but it’s interesting to have an imaginary friend who’s similar to Hitler.

    ReplyDelete

Follow by Email