At the Academy Awards last Sunday, the film Jojo Rabbit—about a boy in Nazi Germany whose mother is secretly hiding a Jewish child—won the prize for “best adapted screenplay,” and was nominated for several others. John Podhoretz, who is no fan of Holocaust movies, or of Jojo Rabbit’s writer-director Taika Waititi (né Cohen), was surprised to find himself praising the film:
Jojo is Johannes, a boy whose father is (he thinks) off fighting the war and whose glamorous mother (Scarlett Johansson) goes off every day to do things about which he is not in the least curious. Lonely and solitary, he consoles himself through conversations with an imaginary Hitler (played by Waititi), who is every bit the ten-year-old boy Jojo is.
As the film begins, Jojo goes off for the weekend to train as part of the Hitler Youth, a broadly comic sequence featuring ludicrous exercises that suddenly becomes something else when Jojo is tasked with killing a rabbit with his bare hands to demonstrate his readiness to serve the Nazi cause. His inability to do so leads to the mocking nickname that gives the movie its title. And the reversal of mood in the scene gives a hint of the reversals Jojo will experience as the movie continues.
Waititi shows an uncommon grace in his portrayal of Jojo, who has had his head pumped full of disgusting ideas he barely even understands. What he does understand is the joy of a uniform, its swastika insignia, and the hunter’s knife that comes with it—and the fatherless fantasy that Hitler could be his intimate friend.
His mother is afraid that the Nazis are turning Jojo into a robot, but his problem is not a lack of feeling; it’s too much feeling. It is precisely his openness to emotion that will save Jojo. And it will cause him to experience terrible grief in the town square. It’s a scene that features one of the most devastating and brilliantly rendered moments in contemporary cinema, and fittingly so, since Jojo Rabbit is just an extraordinary piece of work and maybe the year’s best film.
Read more on Washington Free Beacon: https://freebeacon.com/culture/review-jojo-rabbit/