Sunday, January 31, 2021

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

We've waited over a year to watch this, in the end coincidentally during a week that featured Holocaust Remembrance Day. That reluctance has been grounded in my recollection of this acerbic review by Robbie Collin on Radio Five Live.

I'd listened to the podcast and so had not previously been aware just how prickly the atmosphere between him and Edith Bowman had become inside the studio.

I'd decided on the spot that Robbie was probably right, if only because the way Edith Bowman tends to set herself up as a counter-punching (and usually quite populist) alternative reviewer in rather stark contrast to Simon Mayo's more easy going facilitator/presenter guise. 

This north of the border B team pair up had had a notable earlier clash of views over Bohemian Rhapsody, and that should have reminded me that I can agree with a scathing review and yet still essentially enjoy the movie on its own terms.

Now that I've seen this one, I have a slightly more balanced take on it. We're big fans of What We Do In The Shadows, but Nazis are more awkward satirical targets than vampires. 
Robbie is probably right that this is the least successful thing Waititi has yet done, yet that does not necessarily make it the one note, one star flop he suggests it is.

While it is obvious that the figure of Adolf resides in Jojo's head, just how much else of this stylised end of the road for Nazism is supposed to be taken as realist? 

Waititi's bloodsucker mockumentary follows a familiar format, and so these questions don't become quite as fraught as they did last year between this pair of BBC reviewers.

There's definitely something moving about the way this story plays out, even if it doesn't quite address the war, the Holocaust or the propaganda techniques of the totalitarian right with either its serious plot leftovers from the novel or the hit and miss comic elements that Waititi has injected into it.

That there were no Germans obviously involved somehow added to the awkwardness. 

Also that the actress playing the Jewish girl in hiding, Thomasin McKenzie, appears not to be Jewish. She's certainly one of the best young talents that NZ possesses, but Scarlet Johannson (whose mother's family are Askenazi and who really is superb here as Jojo's good German mother) has had some flack in the past for being cast in roles supposedly requiring more authentic ethnicity.

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