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#TIFF19 Review: Jojo Rabbit (Special Presentations)

September 12, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Satire is a tricky thing to properly pull off, but New Zealand actor and filmmaker Taika Waititi succeeds in his latest film Jojo Rabbit, an original and daring World War II satire that is equal parts funny and moving. The main character is Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a young German nationalist and dedicated member of the Hitler Youth, whose imaginary friend is a cartoonish version of Adolf Hitler (Waititi). But when Jojo discovers that his beloved mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic, his adherence to the poisonous, Jew-hating Nazi ideology starts to be challenged, as a heartwarming friendship forms between the two.

At first, Jojo Rabbit feels like it could go off the rails at any moment, but as the story starts to reveal itself and take some surprising dramatic turns, the film actually becomes quite emotionally involving in addition to being bitingly funny. The screenplay mercilessly mocks the stupidity of white supremacist thinking, while also delivering several moments that show the terrifying reality of the horrors being carried out by the Nazi regime. It should be offensive, and for some it might be, but Waititi’s irreverent approach is meant to take the piss out of Nazis, particularly Hitler himself, whom he hilariously portrays as a buffonish, unhinged narcissist.

The film serves as a sadly all too relevant exploration of how easy it is to get sucked into hate, especially for impressionable young people who feel like outcasts and are trying to find their place in the world. But it also shows that, in some cases, both change and forgiveness is possible. Carried by brilliant work from its young leads Davis and McKenzie, who are backed up by an excellent supporting cast that includes Sam Rockwell as an oddball Nazi, Waititi has crafted a film that is as subversive as it is sweet.

Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi and Scarlet Johansson in Jojo Rabbit

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 8th – 9:30 PM at Princess of Wales

Monday, September 9th – 10:00 AM at Elgin Theatre

Friday, September 13th – 9:30 PM at Winter Garden Theatre

Sunday, September 15th – 12:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre

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