Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Taika Waititi|
|Screenplay by||Taika Waititi|
|Based on||Caging Skies|
by Christine Leunens
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Cinematography||Mihai Mălaimare Jr.|
|Edited by||Tom Eagles|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$15.6 million|
Jojo Rabbit is a 2019 American satirical black comedy film written and directed by Taika Waititi, based on Christine Leunens's book Caging Skies. Roman Griffin Davis portrays the title character, a Hitler Youth who finds out his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. He must then question his beliefs, while dealing with the intervention of his imaginary friend, an idiotic version of Adolf Hitler (Waititi). The film also stars Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell.
The film had its world premiere at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2019, where it won the top prize, the Grolsch People's Choice Award.. It was released theatrically in the United States on October 18, 2019, and in New Zealand on October 24, 2019. Jojo Rabbit polarized critics, drawing mostly praise but also criticism for its comedic portrayal of Nazis, although the performances were generally lauded.
Johannes "Jojo" Betzler is a ten-year-old boy living in Nazi Germany during the later stages of World War II with his caring mother, Rosie. His absent father is supposedly serving in Italy but has lost all contact and his older sister Inge has recently died of influenza. The jingoistic Jojo often talks with his imaginary friend, a supportive but childish version of Adolf Hitler.
Jojo and his best friend Yorki attend a Hitler Youth training camp, run by the one eyed, alcoholic and cynical Wehrmacht Captain Klenzendorf. When Jojo is ordered to kill a rabbit by older Hitler Youth members, he tries to release it and runs off crying after the other boys taunt him with the name "Jojo Rabbit". After a pep talk from Adolf, Jojo returns and throws a grenade without permission. It bounces off a tree and explodes at his feet, leaving him with facial scars and a slight limp. After Jojo recovers, Rosie asks Klenzendorf, demoted after the incident, to make her son feel included despite his injuries. Jojo is given small tasks such as spreading propaganda leaflets throughout town.
Alone at home, Jojo investigates odd noises upstairs and discovers Elsa Korr, a teenage Jewish girl and his late sister's former classmate, hiding in the attic. Jojo threatens to turn her over to the Gestapo, but Elsa warns that his mother would be killed for hiding her. He agrees to keep her safe, on the condition she reveals her "Jew secrets" so he can write a book for Klenzendorf. Elsa plays along by making up stories about Jewish powers, such as mind-reading. Angry with his mother for hiding a Jew but unable to reveal his knowledge of Elsa, Jojo accuses Rosie of being unpatriotic and laments that his father is away. Rosie dismisses his accusations and espouses her belief that positivity and optimism are the best ways to be free of oppression.
Jojo continues to interrogate Elsa, learning she has a boyfriend called Nathan with whom she wants to reunite when the war is over. Jojo forges a letter from "Nathan" that he has found someone else and wants to break up with Elsa. Hearing her crying, a guilty Jojo writes another letter retracting the first one. Jojo and Adolf argue, with Adolf insisting Elsa is a monster. Jojo spots his mother leaving a "free Germany" message in town.
Jojo is home one day when the Gestapo, led by Captain Deertz, enter and tear the house apart. Jojo tries to steer them away from Elsa, but she reveals herself. Pretending to be Inge, she produces her papers and confirms her birthday from memory to quell the Gestapo's suspicions. Jojo is relieved, but Elsa later realizes she recited the wrong date and Klenzendorf covered for her, but is certain the Gestapo will eventually realize the deception. Later that day, Jojo finds his mother has been hanged in the town square. Devastated, he returns home and stabs Elsa in the shoulder, then breaks down; Elsa comforts him.
Jojo runs into Yorki, now a soldier, who tells him Hitler is dead and the Allies are closing in. Jojo encounters Fraulein Rahm, arming children as the battle rages, and she gives him a soldier's coat. Facing the American and Soviet forces, the city's garrison surrenders. The Soviets force several captured Germans into a backyard, including Jojo, still wearing the uniform. A wounded Klenzendorf tells Jojo his mother was a good woman, and saves him by removing his coat, calling him a Jew, and spitting on him. The soldiers expel Jojo, who runs away as a machine gun fires on the prisoners.
Jojo runs home and, to stop Elsa leaving, tells her Germany won the war. Recognizing her despair, he recites a new "letter" from her boyfriend claiming that he and Jojo have figured out a way to smuggle her to Paris. Elsa confesses that her boyfriend died. Jojo tells her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him in a 'little brother' way. A disheveled Adolf angrily confronts Jojo for siding with Elsa, and Jojo kicks him out the window. Jojo takes Elsa outside, where she realizes the Allies have won, she slaps Jojo in the face for lying to her and then they dance in the street.
- Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo
- Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, a Jewish girl whom Rosie hides in her home
- Taika Waititi as Adolf, Jojo's imaginary friend version of the infamous historical figure
- Rebel Wilson as Fräulein Rahm, a brutish instructor in the Hitler Youth camp
- Stephen Merchant as Deertz, a Gestapo agent
- Alfie Allen as Finkel, the second-in-command to Captain Klenzendorf
- Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf, an Army officer who runs a Hitler Youth camp
- Scarlett Johansson as Rosie, Jojo's single mother who is secretly anti-Nazi
- Archie Yates as Yorki, Jojo's best friend
In March 2018, it was revealed that Taika Waititi would not only direct but also co-star in the film as an imaginary Adolf Hitler. Speaking of the context of the role, Waititi said "It's my version of... a lonely boy's best version of his hero, which is really his dad", referencing the fact that in the film, the protagonist, a 10-year-old boy, is desperate to join Hitler's ranks during World War II. Later that month, Scarlett Johansson joined the cast to portray the lead child's mother, who is secretly anti-Nazi. In April 2018, Sam Rockwell joined the cast to portray "a Nazi captain who runs a Hitler Youth camp". In May 2018, Rebel Wilson joined the cast to portray "a brutish instructor in the Hitler Youth Camp the young man has just been recruited to attend". Filming was also set to begin in Prague shortly thereafter. Later that month, newcomer Roman Griffin joined the cast to star as Johansson's son and New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie was cast as Elsa Korr, the Jewish girl whom Johansson hides in her home. In June 2018, Alfie Allen was cast as Finkel, the second in command to Captain Klenzendorf, and Stephen Merchant was cast as Captain Deertz, a Gestapo agent.
Jojo Rabbit had its world premiere at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2019. It screened at Fantastic Fest in Austin on September 19, 2019. The film opened the San Diego International Film Festival on October 15, 2019. It will also screen at film festivals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Hawaii, New Orleans, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Middleburg, Virginia, and at the UK Jewish Film Festival. The film was released in New Zealand and the United States on October 18, 2019, beginning with a limited release before expanding to more theaters in the following weeks, to a full release on November 8, 2019.
In its limited opening weekend the film made $349,555 from five theaters, an average of $69,911 per venue (the fourth-best of 2019). The film expanded to 55 theaters in 10 cities the following week, making $1 million, and its third weekend grossed $2.3 million from 256 theaters. It went wide the following weekend, making $3.8 million from 802 theaters.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 79% based on 259 reviews, with an average rating of 7.65/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Jojo Rabbit's blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won't be to everyone's taste—but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 58 out of 100, based on 51 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 96%, with 87% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Brian Truitt, writing for USA Today, gave the film four out of four stars, calling it "brilliant Nazi-mocking satire", praising the performances and writing: "As much as it makes you laugh, Waititi's must-watch effort is a warm hug of a movie that just so happens to have a lot of important things to say." In a positive review, Steve Pond of TheWrap wrote that "there's real heart in Jojo Rabbit, too. This is a dark satire that finds a way to make a case for understanding. As circumstances slowly chip away at Jojo's hate-driven worldview, the black comedy finds room for some genuinely touching moments."
Variety's Owen Gleiberman said that the film "creates the illusion of danger while playing it safe" and wrote that "it lacks the courage of its own conventionality. It's a feel-good movie, all right, but one that uses the fake danger of defanged black comedy to leave us feeling good about the fact that we're above a feel-good movie." Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a grade of "C", writing that "Despite a few flashes of tragedy, Jojo Rabbit lingers in a charming muddle of good vibes without really confronting their implications. [Waititi] may be one of the few working directors capable of injecting quirky scenarios with real depth, but in this case, he reduces the underlying circumstances—you know, that Holocaust thing—to a superficial prop."
A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that "The particulars of the evil can seem curiously abstract, and the portrayal of goodness can feel a bit false, and forced. The outlandishness of anti-Semitism is emphasized—the idea that Jews have horns, for instance, to the exclusion of its less superstitious manifestations. And Elsa's Jewishness has no real content. She exists mainly as a teaching moment for Johannes. Her plight is a chance for him to prove his bravery." Keith Uhlich of Slant Magazine gave the film zero stars, criticizing the film's premise as well as its lack of historical accuracy and realism. He also criticized the use of antisemitic canards and stereotypes, and wrote that Waititi's performance as Hitler is "aiming for The Great Dictator but barely hitting Ace Ventura." Little White Lies' Hannah Woodhead called the film "unfunny", saying "a more fitting tagline might be 'An Anti-Humour Satire' given how woefully unfunny it is" and also criticized the film for its portrayal of Nazis, writing that "Jojo Rabbit feels oddly impartial, keen to note that actually, there were some Nice Nazis Too. That's not really something we need to hear in 2019, with white nationalism back in vogue and on the march across much of western civilisation."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Toronto International Film Festival||September 15, 2019||Grolsch People's Choice Award||Jojo Rabbit||Won|||
|Hollywood Film Awards||November 3, 2019||Cinematography Award||Mihai Mălaimare Jr.||Won|||
|Production Design Award||Ra Vincent||Won|
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||November 23, 2019||Best Original Score in a Feature Film||Michael Giacchino||Pending|||
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