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Filmmaker Taika Waititi may have become a household name with his work on Thor: Ragnarok, but he's had a long and celebrated career in film. Also taking into account his work on What We Do in The Shadows, cinephiles have been eager to see what the projects Waititi is bringing to theaters before jumping back into Thor with Love and Thunder. He brought his dark comedy Jojo Rabbit to the Toronto Film Festival, where I was able to catch an early screening of the highly anticipated movie.
Taika Waititi's has been intimately involved in bringing Jojo Rabbit to theaters, serving as director, writer, producer, and star. The movie is a historical dark comedy, and most of the conversation ahead of its release has been the depiction of Nazis, in particular Waititi's performance as an imaginary Adolf Hitler. And while there's been some backlash on the internet, I've got to say that the handling of Hitler was handled perfectly.
Jojo Rabbit follows Roman Griffin Davis's title character, a Nazi youth living at the tail end of World War II. The young boy is fanatical about Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, regularly wearing a uniform and spouting out propaganda about the cause. His obsession extends to his imaginary friend, a cartoonish Hitler played by Taika Waititi himself.
Taika Waititi puts his signature wit and wordplay into the script of Jojo Rabbit, especially the way Nazism and Hitler are approached. The Nazi belief system is constantly the butt of the joke, especially since Jojo believes anything he's told about World War II and Jews. His performance is also brilliant and bizarre, establishing the movie's unique tone from his very first appearance.
While this is obviously a sensitive subject matter that has the potential to trigger moviegoers, much of the comedy in Jojo Rabbit is in how ridiculous, Jojo, imaginary Hitler, and the other Nazi officers are. In addition to being fodder for jokes, their belief system is also examined throughout the movie's runtime, and ultimately dismantled. It's not a movie that is particularly kind to Nazis, especially Hitler himself.
Jojo Rabbit has plenty of laugh out loud moments, largely thanks to Taika Waititi's sense of humor. But the movie doesn't shy away from the real drama and emotion of WWII and The Holocaust. It's this balance that helps the movie pack a more dramatic punch, while also paying proper respect to the real-life tragedies that occurred as a result of Nazism.
Taika Waititi isn't making light of the Holocaust or Nazism. Instead, he's retelling the story a fresh new lens, expertly balancing the comedic and dramatic tones of the story throughout Jojo Rabbit's runtime. It's this particular balance that Waititi's projects have always been praised for, and one that made Jojo Rabbit my favorite movie I saw at TIFF. Luckily, moviegoers wont' have to wait long to judge for themselves.