Of all the movies that were announced as award contenders, I was most excited to see Jojo Rabbit get the nod. This film adds a bit of comedy to a darker, more serious, award lineup.
Written and directed by Taika Waititi, the story follows 10-year-old Jojo Betzier, who is living in Nazi Germany during the late stages of World War II. With few friends, the 10-year old’s closest companion is an imaginary friend, a childish version of Adolf Hitler, who Jojo uses to asks for advice. When Jojo discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic, his whole view of the world changes.
The premise of this movie was already on many keyboard warriors’ radar because any movie in the current climate that makes light of Nazis is walking a thin line. This movie does an excellent job, in my opinion, of making the main character of Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) as a relatable and humorous character. Even Waititi’s portrayal of imaginary Hitler made me laugh out loud a few times.
Jojo’s character, in many ways, is an accurate representation of youth. Jojo is left without any male role model after his father “goes to fight on the Italian front,” leaving him susceptible to outside influences. His mother (Scarlett Johansson) tries her best to show her son that the Nazis that he idolizes are wrong, but it takes someone close to his own age, Elsa Korr, the Jewish girl in the attic (Thomasin McKenzie), to change his mind and heart. When you are young, you look for role models where ever you can, and sometimes those role models can be bad influences.
This movie, unlike the rest of the film nominated for Best Picture, only has one scene where you are at the end of your seat. Because of that, I think you get more time to just enjoy the movie. There is a scene where Jojo interrogates Elsa about what being a Jew is like. In other movies, this would be one of the main scenes of the movie where the director would try to pack as many jokes as possible to offset the uneasiness the audience might have from the premise. Instead, Waititi treats this scene like he does every other in the film: with measure.
If you have a chance to see any of the nominated films, this is one that I would give my highest recommendation to. The lightheartedness and fun I had while watching it was hard to match in any of the movies I’d seen before or since.