The comedy we didnât know we needed
The comedy we didn’t know we needed
Lanz Aaron G. Tan (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Incredibly poignant, politically timely and ubiquitously hilarious, director Taika Waititi works wonders in weaving deft humor with horrific subject matter in Jojo Rabbit. 

Set in the tail-end of World War 2, the film follows Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) a 10-year Hitler Youth fanatic who’s so engrossed in the cult of Nazism, he fantasizes that Adolf Hitler (played by writer-director Waititi) is his imaginary friend. When Jojo finds that his mother has been secretly harboring a Jew in the attic, he forms a surprising bond with her that makes him question both his fanaticism and the hermetically enclosed world that had perpetuated it.

From New Zealand indie hits, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and now to Jojo Rabbit, Waititi has always leaned on his trademark humor, flaunting sarcasm and witty dialogue over cheap slapstick. Laughs flow naturally from the absurd realities that transpired in Nazi Germany, which makes for effective black comedy.

The film features an outstanding supporting performance from Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s secretly anti-Nazi mother. She walks the fine line between fearing the Nazi her son may grow up to be, while also trying to nurture and understand him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Johansson nominated twice at the upcoming Academy Awards (for Jojo Rabbit and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story).

When Jojo Rabbit reaches its heartfelt conclusion, it would be easy for some to argue that Waititi played it safe; it’s undeniable that some character arcs are deeply rooted in long-established cinematic conventions. Still, it’s easy to forget what we should expect from cinema in the first place. Cinema should be a haven where viewers can live someone else’s life in another time and another place, and experience things otherwise impossible in real life. The best cinematic experiences are therefore those that use their illusory qualities to rediscover what it means to be human and Jojo Rabbit is undoubtedly one of those indelible experiences, using comedy as a storytelling device to soaring effects. 

You may think that the world of Jojo Rabbit is far removed from our lives today after all, WW2 did end 75 years ago but Waititi uncovers inalienable human truths that epitomize the power of filmmaking. Jojo Rabbit reaches into our very soul to place a contemporary message for today’s divisive politics.

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