Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit ★½

jojo rabbit is a mess. it's incredibly hard to balance a serious drama and a comedy under the roof of a single film. they tend to fuck each other up, and so i don't really blame taika waititi for how this film turned out. i would probably fuck it up much worse were i in his shoes. however, that doesn't change the fundamental nature of the film.

jojo rabbit's portrayal of nazi germany is fine. the film presents nazi rule through the eyes of a hitler youth member, blinded by propaganda. thus while the portrayal is oftentimes borderline-rosy (no pun intended,) it's not an entirely poor representation on how it might feel for someone in that position. this is to say that, ignoring the comedy, it's not an egregious setup. even narratively, there's a really interesting thread with the potential for some fantastic social commentary in place. unfortunately, waititi's blend of comedy ruins the tone of the film and sets itself up to be neither a good comedy nor a good wartime drama. casting himself as hitler, waititi pairs very slapstick and physical comedy with a story of a young boy overcoming fascist propaganda for the sake of human connection. it deeply discounts the weight of the occasionally well-played and subtle serious moments when waititi - again, casting himself as adolf hitler - then jumps out of the window in a poor attempt at comedy.

this film could've easily functioned as a comedy that hones in on the absurdity of a child having hitler as an imaginary friend, or it could've cut the comedy entirely and focused in on a really earnest story about the experience of young, impressionable minds in the midst of a fascist regime. by trying to do both, it dooms itself in a frustrating purgatory where nothing can be serious for long and comedic timing is dead in the water. it's borderline insensitive. if you're going to write a comedy about the holocaust, i think there should be a certain degree of class and care. the juxtaposition this film presents with its comedy totally ruins it for me.

most of the aspects of the film are hit or miss, largely depending on the scene itself. scarlett johansson does okay as an alcoholic mother trying her best, and some of the more tender moments between roman griffin davis and thomasin mckenzie can carry some weight in a vacuum. the accent work is incredibly poor, turning on and off for most of the characters between different scenes. some mildly interesting symbolism and cinematography ideas also permeate the film, but it's usually punctuated by some pretty awkward and poorly carried out ideas. hit or miss.

people really love this film, so clearly waititi's blend of comedy and drama works for a lot of people. while i enjoyed what we do in the shadows and his work with flight of the conchords, i think waititi is much more grounded when he's working with jemaine clement. eagle vs shark, which he wrote on his own, has a similar hit or miss quality to it which i feel he's carried through his career. i think this film had a lot of potential that was ultimately lost by the execution.

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