This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Cam Carpenter’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I'm thinking about what this movie would have looked like had Jojo not been considered too incompetent to fully act out the horrors of the Nazi party. I'm thinking about the movie's hesitance to call Jojo a Nazi, about how Scarlett Johansson's character does not teach her child in specific political terms - only broad platitudes about love and peace. I'm thinking about her death, and what it means to have left behind a young, impressionable boy without having specifically challenged his Nazi outbursts and posturing.
I'm thinking about Elsa's characterization - her lack of anger, her temperament and how it ultimately lacks historical context and frames her as a manic pixie dream girl stereotype. I'm thinking about the filmmaking and the production design, and why, despite being specifically from a Nazi's perspective, it is mirror-reflective of Waititi's previous films.
I'm thinking about shots such as Elsa's hand appearing around the doorframe, reminiscent of a horror movie, and how effective it is as a punchline. I'm thinking about the soundtrack, filled with sing-along, feel-good songs throughout the movie's entire runtime. I'm thinking about the movie's framing of Nazis as incompetent morons, despite how the United States regularly employed many of their scientific endeavors.
I'm thinking about how the jokes the Nazis make are the same as the ones people I knew in high school would, and how their community thrives on social media. I'm thinking about how these jokes don't feel as divorced from reality as they should be, and how they are only challenged in-narrative by the saving grace of history, the war's end, and the Nazis' loss. I don't laugh at them now, despite finding Nazis ridiculous and evil; I'm not sure why I would laugh at them in a movie.
I'm thinking about subversive storytelling and how we view our storytellers. I'm thinking about the instant and aggressive backlash to Amma Assante's extensively researched WHERE HANDS TOUCH just one year before this film took home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. I'm thinking of the films' similarities - manipulating in different ways, using a love story to bring about a Nazi's humanity. Not to defend or praise either film, but merely to question the existence of both within the Hollywood system.
I'm thinking about THE PRODUCERS and how the punchlines of the movie did not resort simply to various iterations of "Nazis hate Jews." I am thinking about the boldness of that film to comedically center two Jewish men attempting to capitalize on the horrors of the Holocaust and how they are brought down by a cultural dismissal of tact. I'm thinking about the ways in which that film is brilliant in who the "heroes" are and just what they are seeking to do. I am thinking about how that film is genuinely brave.
I'm thinking about "uncomfortable" comedy and how I believe it's necessary. And I'm thinking about why the Nazis are the funny characters in this film. I am thinking about their line deliveries, their adherence to absurdity, and why the cast is stocked with comedians playing the Nazis. I am thinking about the perspective given to Jews in a film like INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, and how it differs here. I do not think of myself as prudish - I love when the envelope is pushed. I do not consider being uncomfortable to be a negative thing; I tend to admire movies capable of doing it.
But Jojo Rabbit did not make me feel uncomfortable. And I'm thinking about it a lot.