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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Jojo Rabbit

Extremely Black & White

It takes next to nothing to become so enraged at the injustice of it all. The injustice of feeling small, the injustice of feeling lonely, the injustice of feeling scared and the injustice of being tethered to something you only pretend to understand. Jojo Rabbit is a dream catcher of those injustices. Once your feelings reach the surface, they get all tangled up with no way out.

Jojo Rabbit follows Johannes Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a ten-year-old Hitler Youth member who lives with mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) in Nazi Germany during the later stages of World War Two. He soon discovers Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), an older Jewish girl Rosie is hiding in their attic. He soon faces the questioning of his beliefs while dealing with the intervention of his imaginary friend, a silly version of Hitler (Taika Waititi).

In order to give flawless performances, actors must be able to act individually as well as with their co-stars. They must not break character when in the presence of others. All the actors accomplish this with perfect grace. It's through the actions that you learn everything there is to learn about who these characters are.

Jojo Rabbit is Griffin Davis’s breakthrough role and I can't wait to see what he does next. He remains so brilliantly focused but not paralyzed in the unraveling of someone who’s had to grow up too fast. McKenzie’s Elsa has suffered the most and when we first meet her, she's in a stage of having drained confidence. She has it and she uses it but only because of the bigotry continuously brought to her attention by her savior's tiny son.

She's not hopeless but she's too far along in her exposure of antisemitism to remain naive on the issue. She can't leave the house so most of her scenes comprise of her upstairs with Jojo and Rosie (neither of whom know the other knows about Elsa). McKenzie is extraordinary because she portrays Elsa as though she's walking on a tightrope. There's a danger to her situation but her interactions with Jojo (the thin tightrope) continue anyway (increasing the height on which she walks).

Scarlett Johansson is Jojo Rabbit’s greatest achievement. The accent is shockingly on point, her facial expressions are out of this world and she ensures audiences’ eyes and ears are always open towards her. Johansson has always been good at capturing audiences’ attention and without malice, stealing the spotlight. The beauty of Rosie Betzler is embodied with this fierceness that towers over ignorance. She's extremely intelligent and very caring. The scenes between her and Elsa are the films most human moments. She guides Elsa through her transition into Womanhood and can always be counted on for honesty even if those around her can't understand it.

Many films start off great but then they get really terrible. Jojo Rabbit is the other way around. The film starts off so horribly but eventually becomes so intoxicatingly mesmerizing. There are certain aspects that remain ridiculous (I can't mention these without giving massive spoilers) but the heart of Jojo Rabbit clouds over the ugly shadow the film began with.

I have very dark humor, so I wasn't offended by Jojo Rabbit in any way but the extent of how intentionally the film was made out to be a comedy just made it so hard for me to take it seriously. It's not until the characters let their guards down and show themselves that I was able to embrace all that the film allowed me to embrace.

Overall, Jojo Rabbit is an extremely black and white film. Some love it, others hate it. I hated the first portion of it but audiences who have it in them to invest in the heart and soul of these shattered people should have it in them to discuss nothing else upon exiting the theater.

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