Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★★★½

Reviewed on Cinema Eclectica.

I had this theory that Taika Waititi might be the comedy director we need now, in the same way Ernst Lubitsch was in the 1930s and Woody Allen was in the 1970s. That theory has wobbled a bit with this film, but there's no doubting his ability to understand and perform comedy. Jojo Rabbit is a film where the blocking gets a laugh, and it's also a film with a truly wild, physically hilarious supporting performance from its director. Its half-Jewish, half-Maori director. In a Nazi uniform. Playing Adolf Hitler.

The result is just outrageous enough, and I suspect this controlled quality, this careful illusion of doing something reckless, has helped it get a diligent fanbase already. For me, I wished it had cut a little deeper and done more to deserve its tag as "an anti-hate satire". Compare it with Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin - that's a very funny film, but it knew that there was a core of horror at the film's centre. There is no Beria figure here, nobody who brings the menace we know existed in this environment into the film's universe. All its Nazis are buffoons, and the female characters are particularly confident in standing up to them in ways that I couldn't credit as happening under a totalitarian, misogynistic war state.

Even when the characters are misconceived, though, the performances are strong across the board. Scarlett Johansson gives one of her best performances in a very uncharacteristic role, and the scene where she celebrates her country losing the war - arguing that she loves her country enough to hate its government and its war - feels subversive in the retro-jingoistic environment of January 2020 in a way Waititi could never have predicted.

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