Jojo Rabbit is an odd movie, an endearing coming-of-age story, set in the final days of Nazi rule in
From this strange set-up, the immensely talented director Taika Waititi has shaped a bold, fascinating, frustrating World War 2 comedy-drama. Tonally all over the place (sometimes even in the same scene) and narratively episodic, Jojo Rabbit is nevertheless an often compelling and, at times, powerfully moving film. It feels like Waititi is reaching for something, trying to land on a wider point about today, and while he doesn't quite achieve this, you have to admire him for attempting something as bold as this.
The ensemble is peppered with familiar faces, with some of these proving more successful then others. Sam Rockwell proves, once again, that he is able to find the humanity that lies behind a monster, with his presence often stealing scenes. Scarlett Johansson gifts a touchingly humane turn as Jojo's mother, with many of the film's key emotional beats residing in her scenes. And Waititi gives a deliciously camp turn as Jojo's imaginary friend, even if it is often jarring to see Adolf Hitler portrayed in this manner. The presence of Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant, though, feel distracting, taking away from some of the scenes they are in. The film itself belongs mostly to its younger performers, with Thomasin McKenzie building on her terrific work in Leave No Trace and Roman Griffin Davis making an always likeable lead. But the real standout is Archie Yates, whose Yorki lifts every moment he is on screen for.
It is notable that the BAFTAs have nominated Jojo Rabbit for six awards, with the majority of these being technical ones. This is where the film flourishes: Waititi and his team craft a jarring chocolate-box concoction, close in feel to a Wes Anderson movie. Throughout, this picture is gorgeous, expertly crafted and a true testament to how good design can lift a film. Truthfully, it is the only aspect of Jojo Rabbit that doesn't feel in conflict with itself, instead meshing together to create a unique work.
It is easy to see why Jojo Rabbit has inspired such a cacophony of opinions since it premiered. It is both a touching, sweetly drawn coming-of-age story and a jarring, queasily uncomfortable exploration of hate. It is a bold, brave choice from Waititi, one I am eager to revisit, but a film that nevertheless struggles to reach the brilliance of much of the rest of his cinematic CV. There has never been a film quite like Jojo Rabbit and that is both its great strength and its main weakness. A cinematic must-watch that will surely inspire an opinion in every audience member.