Warning: spoilers Ahead
It’s going to be quite some time before JoJo Rabbit hits screens in Hong Kong, but when it does, moviegoers will want to check out Taika Waititi’s latest film foray and make the decision themselves whether or not it’s their particular cup of tea. Because the film is controversial for its satirically humorous portrayal of Hitler, (played by director Waititi himself), many reactions to the movie are polarised. If anything, this film will ask moviegoers how far a director can push satire before it crosses the line.
For many, Hitler should never share any kind of sympathetic or loveable characteristics, and that’s understandable—there is too much pain that he is associated with, and these portrayals can trouble people. But for others, it’s the humour that perhaps lets them confront the monster that is Hitler without focusing on the trauma.
For Waititi, who is half-Jewish himself, it would seem that Jojo Rabbit serves as the latter. JoJo is a way of addressing the monster in the closet in a way that he is comfortable with. Controversy aside, Waititi does a brilliant job at directing his ensemble of characters, including a stand-out performance by Scarlett Johansson, delicately innocent scenes from Roman Griffin Davis, who plays JoJo, and great comedic relief from Rebel Wilson, Sam Rockwell and perhaps most of all, newcomer Archie Yates, whose humorous asides diffuse scenes that otherwise would have made the movie too heavy.
It’s an interesting film for Waititi, who helmed the box office hit Thor: Ragnarok, and is readying for the next installment of Thor (Thor: Love and Thunder). While elements of Waititi can be seen in his studio films, it’s the smaller independent features where he shines. It’s in these settings where there is less at stake that he is able to show off his talent.
Although his first foray into independent cinema was criticised as a Kiwi Napoleon Dynamite, over the years, he has been able to carve out a unique voice for himself that seem like a mashup of Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) and Wes Anderson, yet is uniquely his own. While the next Thor should be another typical Marvel comedy action, it’s his independent films that film lovers should be excited about.
When JoJo comes to Hong Kong in several months, I encourage you to take a look at the film and decide for yourself how you feel about it. Whatever impression you may have, you will definitely see a director who has honed his craft over the years and is unapologetic in showing that off.