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‘Jojo Rabbit’ Review: Taika Waititi (2019) [TIFF]

Let’s put this out there off the bat, you’ll never see another film like Jojo Rabbit in cinemas this year. It’s a very controversial, though totally unique laugh out loud comedy that’ll have you giggling and sobbing in equal measure.

First still from the set of WW2 satire, JOJO RABIT. (From L-R): Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) has dinner with his imaginary friend Adolf (Writer/Director Taika Waititi), and his mother, Rosie (Scarlet Johansson). Photo by Kimberley French. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved – Courtesy of TIFF

Thor: Ragnarok and The Hunt For The Wilderpeople filmmaker Taika Waititi steps behind the camera his version of Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, adapting the source material personally and in the process crafting one of the best features of the year.

The story follows young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a ten-year-old German kid who has signed up for the a Hitler young camp towards the end of the second world war. Young Jojo lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), his father away on an unknown mission. He’s lonely, but has an imaginary friend, ‘Adolf’ here played by Taika Waititi himself. Adolf is a version of Hitler, though is clearly a hybrid of what he expects Hitler to be and his absent father. There’s also a missing sister, who has sadly passed, so JoJo spends a lot of time at home on his own. That is, until, he discovers a Jewish girl,  Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) – who has been living in the attic after being harboured by his mother.

Jojo soon finds himself on a journey that will have him questioning his young morals, his nationalistic wants, and his lavish quest to become a guard to the real Hitler.

I loved this movie. The tone is a difficult one to describe but think ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’ meets Mel Brooks. Taika’s humour is really suited to this and his cast are note-perfect throughout, clearly relishing the witty dialogue and very extravagant set-pieces. The film’s lead, Roman Griffin Davis is a real discovery, a young actor whose confidence and screen-presence is evident from the opening frames. Thomasin McKenzie is also fantastic – when isn’t she? – batting home runs in two TIFF premieres, this and the equally superb True Story of The Kelly Gang.

I have a feeling that the humour may not sit the same with all viewers, but if you’re good with any of Waititi’s other work, you’ll be safe here. While you’ll spend 80% of the movie laughing with some superb one-liners and comedic set-pieces, the film will also hit you hard with some heavy material at various points throughout. A scene two thirds in is particularly emotionally challenging. In other hands this movie could have been very different, but the controversial subject matter is handled well, the message clear and the overall arch of the film completely endearing and entertaining. A superb, thought-provoking, stylish piece of work up there with the filmmaker’s strongest – it is certainly one of the best films of the year.

Jojo Rabbit was reviewed at TIFF 2019.


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