With the Academy Awards right around the corner (tune in Sunday, February 9th), it seems fitting to make the first Martin Movie Monday review center around my favorite film for this year. In a year with several very good movies, my top pick is Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Waititi). While I would certainly say this film is probably not for everyone, I was enthralled throughout. It’s the story of a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany. This boy doesn’t have a whole lot of friends and, like many young children in that scenario, he has an imaginary friend. What makes this particular boy unique is that imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Here we get to see what a 10-year old German boy thinks Hitler would be like, often times imagining him as supportive but never as the most evil person in history we all know him to be. This is not intended to be a situation where the film makes Hitler look good – far from it. He mostly comes across as buffoonish and something to be mocked rather than anything positive.
This may not sound like a recipe for a successful film, but it is filled with fantastic dialogue, great performances (Scarlett Johansson is spectacular as Jojo’s mother and all of the children are delightful), and a careful walking of the line between bad taste and light hearted fun while also delivering a powerful coming of age tale in what would have been a complicated time to be a child. While the film sets up the situation of the boy and his imaginary friend, the plot takes a little turn one day when Jojo is home alone. To discuss how it takes a turn would spoil some important elements of the movie.
A seminally unique film going experience, I highly recommend Jojo Rabbit for anyone looking for a film adventure that takes them off the beaten path and showcases great character work in a quasi-gallows humor sort of genre-defying dramedy. The best thing about it is that you cannot put a label on it – you just need to experience it.