By Ben Thomson | Guest Writer
Who knew a movie about Hitler would be the most hopeful film I’ve seen this year?
Through the lens of American cinema, Nazis have always been and shall forever be the bad guys. Beyond just war films, echoes of Third Reich can be seen in iconic villains such as Darth Vader or Lord Voldemort. They’ve always been understood as pure evil. But what if they could change? This is the question asked being asked by Taika Waititi in his latest film Jojo Rabbit, the most controversial film of the week.
Jojo Rabbit tells the story of Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a young Nazi who finds a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the walls of his house, who teaches him a valuable lesson about humanity and the war at large. Oh, and his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (Waititi). The film also features Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen and Stephen Merchant.
I think the film is fine. Not perfect, but better than a lot of other movies I’ve seen this year. Probably my favorite part of the film was the presentation. In the beginning the world is very bright and whimsical. You almost forget the film takes place in Nazi Germany. As the film progresses, however, the bright reds and warm tans are replaced with drained greens and stark greys, giving us a visual accompaniment to Jojo’s character arc. Overall, Waititi’s direction was very solid (when he wasn’t aping Wes Anderson) and there was one motif in particular that had a heart-wrenching pay off. In fact, the big emotional moments in the film were handled very well and almost got me to cry. The film was well cast, with Sam Rockwell and newcomer Archie Yates being the highlights of the film. But that’s really where the positives end for me.
Jojo Rabbit has a pacing issue. I often found myself wondering when the film was going to end, rather than engrossing myself into the world. For a movie that only clocks in at 108 minutes, you’d think it would be a lot more concise and quicker paced. This wasn’t helped by the annoying Adolf Hitler. Waititi is a lot of things, but Charlie Chaplin is not one of them. I found his portrayal of fictional Hitler to be very irritating and not that funny. Maybe that was by design (I mean it would probably be bad if I liked Hitler), but none of the comedy from him landed for me. But perhaps the biggest detracter of this film is that it’s derivative. Waititi made this movie already with Boy. Sure, the relevant social commentary wasn’t there, but the same themes were not just present, but much more resonant. I wish he would’ve leaned a bit more into the satire rather than just doing Boy again.
So, the film isn’t perfect. Very few are. Despite its problems, I’m glad I saw the film, and I look forward to seeing more from Waititi.