This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.
During the weeks leading up to the 92nd Academy Awards, I enjoyed watching all of the Best Picture nominated films. Nine outstanding films offered nine important messages about society, determination, war, peace, acceptance and inclusion. For a brief summary of each worthy film and to discover which one won the Oscar, in case you don’t know, read my post Best Picture Winner.
I found truths to appreciate about all nine films. Joker impacted me the greatest, with its bleak portrayal of a man struggling to find his place in society. This film though, JoJo Rabbit, really pulled me in to the story and stayed with me. So much so, that I want to share a more in-depth review.
This is a spoiler free review of the unique film, JoJo Rabbit, an anti-hate satire that uses dark humor to pierce the heart, and lodge there.
JoJo Rabbit Cast
This history inspired drama, with comedic overtones, stars Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johannson, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant and Archie Yates.
The screenplay, written by Taika Waititi, was inspired by the novel “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens. Waititi won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and the film received five more Academy nominations, including Best Picture. JoJo Rabbit carries a PG-13 rating, for moderate profanity, intense scenes and mild violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 49 minutes.
JoJo’s Big Dream
Ten year old JoJo Betzler (Davis) lives with his mother Rosie (Johannson) in a little town in Germany during WWII. His father is absent, fighting in another country, leaving JoJo the little man of the house while his mother works to provide for them.
Often left on his own, JoJo longs for connection and a cause to fight for. More than anything, this earnest and patriotic boy wants a place in Hitler’s Nazi army. He idolizes the Fuhrer so much that Adolf (Waititi) appears as JoJo’s imaginary friend. JoJo poses his many questions to Hitler and in return, the Fuhrer offers advice and commentary on the boy’s life, cheering him on when necessary.
And it is often necessary. JoJo and his best friend Yorki (Yates) dwell on the fringes when they attend a training camp for Hitler youth. Led by Captain Klezendorf (Rockwell), his second in command Finkel (Allen) and Fraulein Rahm (Wilson) the camp employs unusual techniques to teach their young comrades obedience, loyalty and intolerance.
Although JoJo strives for excellence, the older boys torment him. He earns the nickname, JoJo Rabbit, when he refuses to kill a rabbit on command. After he runs off into the woods, Hitler appears to offer a pep talk. He tells JoJo that rabbits possess excellent qualities such as speed and sends the boy sprinting back into camp.
JoJo leaps into the circle of boys as Captain Klezendorf holds aloft a live grenade. Full of adrenaline fueled courage, JoJo grabs the grenade and dashes off with it, barely tossing it before it explodes. That’s the end of youth camp for JoJo, who returns home to recover from his serious injuries.
The Secret Upstairs
JoJo recovers slowly from the accident, which leaves him with scars on his face and a limp. Feeling he’s ugly now, the lonely boy seeks seclusion at home. Even Hitler’s chats don’t cheer him up.
Rosie uses humor and a mother’s love to pull her son out of his isolation. They ride bicycles and take long walks together. She attempts to broaden his perspective by speaking truthfully about the war efforts.
“The Reich is dying. We’re going to lose the war and then what are you going to do, hmm? Life is a gift. We must celebrate it. We have to dance to show God we are grateful to be alive.”
At home alone one day, JoJo hears suspicious noises upstairs. Stealthily tracking down the sounds, he pauses outside his sister’s room. She passed away recently. Her bedroom remains untouched. Unexpectedly, JoJo discovers a young woman, Elsa (McKenzie) secreted away behind a false wall. Hidden there by Rosie, JoJo is shocked to learn Elsa is Jewish.
Everything JoJo learned about the Jewish race appears to be wrong. Elsa doesn’t have horns or evil intentions. Although he and Hitler plot to get rid of her initially, JoJo decides to write a book about the Jewish people, with Elsa supplying the information. The more the boy learns from Elsa, the more confused he becomes. She seems nice. And like him, she spends a great deal of time alone. A friendship blossoms between them.
When the gestapo shows up at the house, led by Captain Deertz (Merchant), JoJo no longer wants to rid himself of Elsa. Instead, like his mother, he seeks to protect her. How much longer will they be able to do so? And at what risk?
My Thoughts on JoJo Rabbit
I attended the viewing for this film with no idea of the story line, beyond the Germany setting during WWII. In fact, it’s likely I would have missed this movie had it not received a Best Picture nomination, deeming it “not my style of film”. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to change my opinion.
This is a quirky, oddly hilarious at times, completely heart-warming film with amazing portrayals by a talented cast. I can’t praise it enough. From the strange relationship between JoJo and Hitler to the tender one between mother and son to the growing friendship between German boy and Jewish girl, this movie captivated me. I laughed and I teared up. And at one point I wanted to wail with sorrow. While JoJo Rabbit appears lighthearted on the surface, it impacts the heart deeply and it broadens the mind.
I love Waititi’s brilliance as a screenplay writer, director and actor. He moved me and unsettled me. I eager anticipate anything else he creates.
The scene that I cannot forget is near the end of the movie. The town is under attack as the war draws to a close. Fraulein Rahm thrusts rifles into the hands of young boys with these instructions: “Shoot anyone that doesn’t look like us.”
I can’t forget that line. Shoot anyone…kill anyone…that doesn’t look like us. One can easily substitute other words. Ridicule anyone…ignore anyone…bully anyone…attempt to control anyone…hurt anyone…shame anyone…that doesn’t look like us.
With a single line Waititi powerfully reminds us of what it means to be human and to love humanity, whether they look like us, like me, like you, or not. Movies like JoJo Rabbit give me hope that we are growing, and can continue to, even though we have a long journey yet ahead.
Let me know if you’ve seen this unforgettable film and share your thoughts.
Purchase or rent JoJo Rabbit through Amazon by clicking on the photo below:
Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.