Last Night We Saw Jojo Rabbit

Last Night We Saw Jojo Rabbit November 11, 2019



Last night, Jan, Mo, and I went to see Jojo Rabbit.

I’m still processing.

Bob Mondello at NPR tell us, “Jojo Rabbit is gently comic for a while, and then surprisingly affecting at the end, so perhaps it’s not fair to wish that Waititi had opted to deal more directly with the horrors of the Third Reich. We are, after all, living in a time when fascism is again a growing threat.”

Which, of course, raises a bunch of questions.

Owen Gleiverman at Variety finds the whole project hipper than thou. “It asks us to divide ourselves into the hip and the square. The hip are those who are savvy and brazen enough to look right into the face of the hate that surrounds us and to laugh in a defiance so roguish and knowing that it makes them part of the Insider Intransigence Club. The square are those of us who are not clued-in enough to join that club.”

It is a strange mixture, no doubt. And it faces some hard, hard things from angles we don’t normally come from.

At the end I felt it was a strange film, The term “satire” that’s often used to describe it, certainly doesn’t quite capture it, although its part of it. Mo suggested “fantastic realism.” I kind of like that, sidestepping the traditional term “magical,” and with that the host of assumptions the traditional term brings along. Rather, we’re invited into a passing strange world, where we can see it is in fact the world we live in. It’s just we usually miss how totally weird it is. So, an invitation to look slant…

It basically has three parts. The first is a childhood view of the Nazi regime, somewhere near the end. Jojo’s imaginary best friend is Hitler, but a rather different Hitler than history portrays. Of course. He is, after all, the creation of a ten year old boy. The second part brings the horrors to the front, if a bit cleaner than in the real world, more from the corner of the eye, that slant thing – but it shows, and we see. Horror enough for Jojo. And by extension, for those willing to surrender into the film, horror enough. The third part puts it together. It is perhaps the most “Hollywood” of the parts, and the most criticized. And. It worked for me.

The movie is surrealistic. The background music invites us to consider when actually is it taking place. The supporting actors, starting with the hallucinatory Aldolf Hilter played by the movie’s writer and director Taika Waititi give flesh to fantasy. Scarlett Johansson as Rosie brings the power of adult resistance and the danger of it all as a vital thread through the movie. Rebel Wilson underscores the insanity. Thomasin McKenzie does a turn out job as Elsa, if perhaps not given quite enough to work with. Jojo’s best or second best friend Yorki is played by a consistent scene stealing Archie Yates. Stephen Merchant plays a very scary if also insane gestapo officer. And, Sam Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf, a failed storm trooper, and probably something more, offers us the sense of decency too easily coopted, but, also…

Roman Griffin Davis is Jojo. And he brings everything we could hope for in his ten year old boy raised in Nazi Germany.

Jojo Rabbit is based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens.

Over at Rotten Tomatoes, seventy-nine percent of some two hundred and sixty-two professionals gave it a thumb’s up. While ninety-seven percent of non-professional viewers who choose to offer an opinion liked Jojo Rabbit.

Passing strange. All of it. And a fair question is, is it asking us to be hip and detached? I think someone can fairly see that in the movie. But, bottom line, I suggest no.

And, I’m still processing.

Jojo Rabbit invites. And it gives us just enough space to see.

Fascism is again a growing threat.

Maybe this film will remind some of us why it is a threat. Presented in only a mildly threatening way. But, for me, threatening enough. And maybe the right mix for a lot of us.

And, it offers hope. Not unmixed. It has its horrors. How could it not? But, there is hope in this film that extends to all of us.

Fantastic realism.

I recommend it…


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