My Rating – 4 out of 5
Plot Summary – JoJo Rabbit
Scarlett Johansson chose the year 2019 to break her Superhero stereotype for good and stamp her class on the Hollywood annals. Jojo Rabbit is another milestone in her storied career, and after Marriage Story proves it beyond doubt she is a major powerhouse amidst the greats.
Taika Waititi terms it a ‘strange art comedy’ – it features a 10 year old boy Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) whose conversations with Hitler (in his mind) forms the main backdrop of this film. Jojo wants to be a War hero in Hitler’s army, never mind his age, childish sensitivities and how he squirms at the sight of blood or violence.
He joins the Hitler Youth camp, aiming to grow up and be Der Fuhrer’s personal bodyguard. But he fails his first test of violence, blows up a grenade on himself and is ruled out of further participation in active duty. He is reduced to the humiliating duty of distributing pamphlets, all along guided by his Fuhrer (in his imagination).
Sam Rockwell plays the part of Captain Klenzendorf, who’s in-charge of the Youth Camp and also gets demoted for the Jojo incident. He, in a way, mentors Jojo thereafter, however unwillingly.
When Jojo comes home from the Hospital (recovering after the grenade accident), he has a lot of time to spare and goes exploring around his house (while Hitler keeps guiding him). On one such exploration drive, he stumbles upon Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), hiding in their attic. Elsa is the Jewish friend of Jojo’s deceased elder sister and has been hidden in the attic by Jojo’s mother Rosie (ScarJo)- who is a secret Anti-Fascist.
Jojo struggles with what to do about Elsa, his ingrained beliefs tell him to give her up as a Jew (As Adolf keeps exhorting him to) while Elsa tells him that if he gives her up the Gestapo will take her mom away too! Slowly a love-hate relationship develops between Jojo and Elsa, where Jojo’s theoretical hatred of Jews loses out to his practical understanding of a fellow human being. Rosie takes her around, and Jojo sees people hanging at the Town square! Shocked, he asks his mother – “What did they do?”, Rosie answers “What they could….”
In his attempt to steer away from political posturing, Taika loses out on a great opportunity to highlight the perils of rabid indoctrination, and allows the movie to meander away into ordinary storytelling with no firm motive. A bit confusing here.
Roman steals the acting cake here, with his wide eyed naivete and childish innocence shining through, followed by Scarlett Johansson with her subdued steel. A good watch for the performances and a refreshing take on the horrors of Nazi Germany.
2019, according to me, was the year of Scarlett Johanssen. Coming out of her Superhero mould, she delivered Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story – both great testaments to her acting talent. On different ends of the spectrum, both movies stretch her as an artist, and she comes up trumps in both cases. It would be such a shame if she doesn’t win the Oscars for her roles, she has thoroughly deserved it!
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