Jo Jo Rabbit
Writer, Director and Actor: Taika Waititi
At the beginning of ‘Jo Jo Rabbit’ fanatically screaming crowds – plus a Beatles soundtrack – have you suspecting that you are viewing footage from the Beatles at the height their popularity arriving in some European country. The camera zooms in on close-ups shots of ecstatic young women with tears rolling down their faces and groups of young men scrambling to touch their hero(es).
You then realise that the ‘hero’ is in fact Adolph Hitler… and this is a perfect segue to meeting our young Jo Jo (Roman Griffin Davis) in his bedroom adorned with propaganda posters of his hero. Jo Jo is preparing for his first day of Hitler Youth training. You quickly realise Jo Jo has an imaginary friend who is none other than Adolph Hitler (Taika Waititi), the man who has not just captured the imagination of a nation has also captured the mind of this cherubic child.
The story propels you through the unadulterated hero worship of a young innocent; the horrors of the Nazis regime; and characters who are magnificent in their depth and compassion. The alcoholic and flamboyant Nazi officer (Sam Rockwell) who has a taste for capes and feathers and who has been demoted to training the Hitler Youth because he is essentially a decent man; Jo Jo’s resistance-sympathising mother (Scarlett Johansson) who hides a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in her attic while her son learns to demonise Jews and their sympathisers; and Jo Jo's best friend Yorkie (Archie Yates), an even chubbier little cherub who is thrust into uniform and ordered to kill but who eventually only wants a hug from his mum.
The casting of ‘Jo Jo Rabbit' is spot on and there is something of the heightened opulence of a Wes Anderson film about the costumes and sets.
I must make special reference to Rebel Wilson who plays Fraulein Rahm, another Nazi tragic who always has an anecdote to deliver with complete conviction to back up the lessons taught to her young charges. Along the lines of ‘a Jew once brainwashed my brother-in-law and he slept with all these other women, took up gambling and became a drunkard. It was all the Jews fault ...’ or some such very similar thing. And of course the imaginary Adolph (Taika Waititi), whose persona grows increasingly dark and nasty as Jo Jo learns some home truths.
The film ‘Jo Jo Rabbit’ has polarised both public and critics and you can understand why. It is a brave writer and director (Taika Waititi) who uses Hitler’s Third Reich as the focus of his latest comedy.
In turn, hilarious and horrifying.