A Dad Talks Movies’s review published on Letterboxd:
(2nd Viewing after screening and Q&A with Taika on 1.30.19)
Taika Waititi is one of the best writer/directors working in Hollywood today. Marvel is amazing at plucking the most talented people from the independent film circuit, so after a few years of making his presence felt in that space, it was a treat to see him go back to the kinds of films that earned him opportunities at the house of mouse. Interestingly enough this film completes the trilogy of films that Taika has made about young boys coming of age in extraordinary or uncommon circumstances. He is clearly fascinated in exploring the ways in which young kids see the world, and in every single film that Taika has made thus far (Jojo is his sixth feature) there is a tremendous amount of depth within the human experience. He has an incredible ability to use comedy as a device to navigate issues like immigration, mental illness, abandonment/the foster care system, and now the impact that the Hitler Youth had on the lives of German children during WWII. Lead by first time actor Roman Davis, Jojo is a wide-eyed young boy whose best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler, and he's greatly influenced by propaganda and radical ideology. His "blind fanaticism" is quite impressive to Stephen Merchant's character.
We meet Jojo's best friend Adolf (played by Taika) in the very first scene, and according to the director the goal was to introduce the satirical approach immediately to the audience so they were aware of the films presentation of this subject. "I'd rather have the audience walk out in the first few minutes rather than 20 minutes in." - Taika WaititiAs Jojo attempts to become the Nazi machine that be believes he is destined to be, we meet his best friend Yorki (who steals every scene he's in) as well as the buffoons that are tasked with molding him. Rockwell's Captain Klenzendorf is tasked with molding these young men and women, and his incompetent and foolish nature is successful in further deconstructing the radical ideology of the Nazi's to the point of mockery. Even though he is teaching the German youth all of these battle hardened techniques, he clearly doesn't posses the kind of dark hearted nature most Nazi believers did, and has a few scenes that really help push Jojo away from this path.
When the inciting incident of the film takes place and it's revealed that Elsa (a Jewish girl) is living in his attic with the help of his mother (Scar Jo), Jojo learns more about himself and the world he is living in. A love letter to single parents, Scarlet Johanson's Rosie tries to bring her son back from the brink of brainwashing and protect him from the evil and atrocities that the world is trying to inflict on her innocent child. As she attempts to teach her son about love and the true nature of the Nazi party, it's Elsa that begins to have a dramatic effect on Jojo, causing him feel the worlds most powerful emotion. It's characters like Elsa, Captain Klenzendor, and Rosie that push Jojo to a coming of age moment where he must decide for himself the kind of person he will eventually become. The comedy and satire in the film is a tool of destructing these atrocities that the Nazi's inflicted. Laughter and love are the greatest weapons in combating pain, and this story preaches that sentiment. "Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final." - Rainer Maria Rilke (9/10)