Jojo Rabbit (2019)


Food: The Bowery Hotel is an East Village staple, but it is often overlooked for local dining and drinks. However, recently, I got the opportunity to spend a Sunday morning in their leafy enclosed patio for brunch. I ordered the avocado toast, and it actually stands out as some of the best I have ever had. Served on thinly sliced baguette and covered in pumpkin seeds with radish slices, it is easy to eat, and the extra flavor and crunch adds a delightful flare. They offer a variety of drinks, including some juices (beet and ginger) and a full coffee menu. It is extremely pleasant and I am definitely going to try to go back soon. 

Film: “Jojo Rabbit” (2019), a comedy about a young boy who enjoys Hitler as his imaginary best friend and is growing up in Nazi Germany in 1944, is simply a film that should not work, but remarkably does. 

By placing the tragedy of Hitlers fascist reign into the eyes of an innocent child, “Jojo Rabbit” is able to allow audience members to side step the atrocities without underplaying them, which would seem unimaginable. The film begins with Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) getting ready for his first day of Nazi Youth Summer Camp, and he is pumping himself up with his imaginary Hitler, a preening and self-aggrandizing Taika Waititi (also, director) with the infamous toothbrush mustache. He provokes increasingly enthusiastic “Heil Hitlers” out of his young protege before sending him on his way. 

I’m not the first to liken the quirky atmosphere of the Nazi Youth Camp to “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012). A squad of zealous campers gather around their leader, a disheartened war veteran with a glass eye and a careless attitude, Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). Jojo tries to gain his footing as a ruthless Nazi, but struggles to decapitate a rabbit, earning him the titular nickname. The narrative shifts, however, when one day Jojo discovers that a young Jewish girl is living in the walls of his home, kept hidden by his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Previously enjoying a close, loving relationship with his single mother, Jojo begins to question her virtue, and meanwhile, develops a kinship with the girl in the wall, Elsa (played sharply by Thomasin McKenzie). 

It balances tone impressively – seamlessly it moves from satire to unexpectedly poignant storytelling. To some, it will always be inappropriate to present the Third Reich with any sort of levity, even for mocking purposes, but amidst the humor is a powerful message. It is able to call attention to the absurdity of the Nazi regime by delivering it from the mind of a child, and through that, emphasizing that the logic of these ideas can only be found within that perspective, from someone who still believes in monsters. It emphasizes the power of indoctrination, but also works to deconstruct fascist ideologies, as the young boy works to understand his own beliefs.

“Jojo Rabbit” conceptually is a bold move. Sewn together with Germanic renditions of classic songs, such as David Bowie’s “Heroes” and The Beatles “Let Me Hold Your Hand,” it delivers one of the most clever use of soundtrack this year, and showcases two breakthrough performances and delightful chemistry from its young stars. Originally, the story is derived from a novel by Christine Leunens called Caging Skies, which tells a more serious tale of a devout 10-year-old Hitler Youth, Johannes Betzler, who discovers that his mother is sheltering a Jewish girl, disrupting his dreamy understanding of Hitler. Waititi is a comedian best known for creating bizarre classics like “What We Do In The Shadows” and “Flight of the Conchords,” but broke new ground with some bigger Blockbusters like “Thor: Ragnarok.” His sense of humor is unique and his choices are sometimes rebellious, like this take on such a dark part of history, but “Jojo Rabbit” is without a doubt one of the better comedic achievements of the year.

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