This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Clobby Clobsters’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Jojo: "What is the first thing you’ll do when you’re free?"
Has anyone else noticed that Taika Waititi forces opposing characters to understand each other? In "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", a clumsy boy and grumpy old man must work together. In "Thor: Ragnarok", a weakened god, anti-hero, Hulk, and disillusioned Valkyrie must do the same. While in "Jojo Rabbit", a Nazi fanatic (Roman Griffin Davis) and a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) must keep the latter hidden from the Gestapo (Stephen Merchant). Taika forces unlikely individuals to work together, but I never noticed this before.
While watching, my dad and me unimpressed. We laughed out loud now and then, like when Yorki (Archie Yates) drops the bazooka, but the story never moved us. An hour later, I found myself hit by a wave of emotion. The more I thought and read about this movie, the more my heart hurt. After watching interviews and behind-the-scenes videos, I can confirm I adore this film.
"Jojo Rabbit" follows a 10-year-old Nazi fanatic whose best friend is Imaginary Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). As those around Jojo challenge his "blind fanaticism," he wonders if he needs Imaginary Adolf Hitler anymore.
It begins with Jojo introducing himself in the mirror. After Imaginary Hitler cheers him on, Jojo rushes down the street, greeting everyone with a heil. After a montage of 40s Germany, the film follows Jojo in a Nazi camp for kids. At the site, Jojo meets Captain Klenzendorf—played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell—who's more disillusioned than enthusiastic.
That night, Jojo remarks that if he joined Hitler's guard, the two of them would be best friends. His friend (Yorki) questions him; he thought he's his best friend. Jojo replies that he's his second-best friend and that "First place is reserved for the Führer." The next day, some teens pressure Jojo to snap a rabbit's neck. He refuses, and they call him "Jojo Rabbit!". Luckily, Imaginary Hitler comforts him, assuring Jojo a rabbit is a magnificent creature.
Soon after, Jojo scars himself with a grenade, gets kicked out of camp and meets his mother in the hospital. When he returns home, Jojo finds a Jewish girl hiding in the walls. Unfortunately, he can do nothing. If he tells his mother, the girl will "cut his Nazi head off," and if he reports her to his superiors, he'll put himself and his mother at risk. He's stuck with her.
His mother and the girl are Scarlett Johansson, who I know as Black Widow from the MCU, and Thomasin McKenzie, who I've never seen before, but now adore. Rosie is a loving mother who teases and plays with Jojo. Elsa is strong and intelligent, and Jojo grows to like her later on.
Before then, Jojo interviews Elsa for his exposé on Jews to help the Nazis identify them. At first, she plays into the "Jewish monster" fantasy, but after hurting her feelings with a forged letter, Jojo apologises, and she stops. Afterwards, Jojo realises he and Elsa are more alike than he thought. "We’re like you but human." she jokes, yet it's her humanity that changes Jojo's heart.
After more interviews, the two grow closer, and Jojo becomes more disillusioned by the Nazi regime. Thankfully, Waititi doesn't show Holocaust atrocities or use Elsa's gentle kindness or meekness to appeal to the audience. Instead, Elsa uses her brute strength and cunning intelligence. His mum challenges his views too. At dinner, she tells him she's happy the Allies are winning because she's tired of the war. Captain Klenzendorf also helps Jojo move past his brainwashing and saves him later on.
After all this, Jojo's faith shatters. Imaginary Hitler doesn't like this and grows bitter. The personification of his fanaticism, who used to support him, now shouts at Jojo like the ruthless tyrant that he is. He transforms from campy to sinister, and Jojo stops listening to him. Jojo rejects his indoctrination and embraces freedom. He embraces Elsa, who loves him as a younger brother, but that's okay with Jojo.
Why I failed to connect with this movie during my viewing still eludes me, but I'm thankful I love this movie now. Anyway, I recommend "Jojo Rabbit", and I hope you have a good day!
"'So what do we do now?'
Elsa shrugs and stands there. And then, ever so subtly, and very slowly, she begins to sway... rhythmically.
Jojo follows suit and moves his shoulders back and forth . . .
Jojo and Elsa slowly begin to dance - not for anyone else, just for themselves and each other." — Jojo Rabbit Screenplay