Jojo Rabbit

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Jojo Rabbit
Jojo Rabbit (2019) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTaika Waititi
Produced by
Screenplay byTaika Waititi
Based onCaging Skies
by Christine Leunens
Starring
Music byMichael Giacchino
CinematographyMihai Mălaimare Jr.
Edited byTom Eagles
Production
company
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • September 8, 2019 (2019-09-08) (TIFF)
  • October 18, 2019 (2019-10-18) (United States)
Running time
108 minutes[3]
Country
LanguageEnglish
Budget$14 million[6]
Box office$90.3 million[7]

Jojo Rabbit is a 2019 comedy-drama film[3][8] written and directed by Taika Waititi, based on Christine Leunens's 2008 book Caging Skies.[9][10][11] Roman Griffin Davis portrays the title character, Johannes "Jojo" Betzler, a Hitler Youth member 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, a fanciful version of Adolf Hitler (Waititi) with a comedic stand on the politics of the war. The film also stars Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell.

A co-production between the United States, New Zealand and Czech Republic,[5] 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.[12] Jojo Rabbit was released theatrically in the United States on October 18, 2019, and in New Zealand on October 24, 2019. It drew mostly praise – especially for the performances, direction, screenplay, heart, visual style, musical score, and production values – but also some criticism for its comedic portrayal of Nazis.[13][14][15]

Jojo Rabbit was chosen by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the ten best films of the year.[16][17] At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for Davis. At the 92nd Academy Awards, it received six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Johansson, winning Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 72nd Writers Guild of America Awards and the 73rd British Academy Film Awards.

Plot[edit]

In the later stages of World War II, ten-year-old Johannes "Jojo" Betzler joins the Deutsches Jungvolk (junior section of the Hitler youth). Jojo is an innocent boy who is heavily indoctrinated with Nazi ideals (manifested by his imaginary friend Adolf, a supportive and buffoonish version of Adolf Hitler). At the training camp run by Captain Klenzendorf, the other children give Jojo the derisive nickname "Jojo Rabbit" after he refuses to kill a rabbit to prove his worthiness. Pepped up by Adolf, he returns to prove his bravery, stealing a Stielhandgranate and throwing it without supervision. The grenade explodes at his feet, leaving him scarred and limping. Jojo's mother, Rosie, coerces Klenzendorf into ensuring that Jojo remains included and is given responsibilities. Jojo is given small tasks such as spreading propaganda leaflets and collecting scrap for the war effort.

Alone at home one day, Jojo discovers Elsa Korr, a teenage Jewish girl and his late sister's former classmate, hiding upstairs. Jojo is both terrified and aggressive towards Elsa, who easily subdues his behavior. The two are left in a stalemate as the revelation that Rosie hiding Elsa would lead to Rosie's execution, and neither Jojo nor Elsa is willing to tell Rosie that they know for fear of what would happen next. Jojo continues to speak to Elsa, doing his best to uncover her "Jew secrets" so he can write a book about Jews for Klenzendorf. Elsa is both saddened and amused by the doctrine that Jojo believes. When she tells Jojo about her fiancé Nathan, Jojo forges a letter from Nathan claiming to have found someone else. When he sees her hurt by this, he quickly puts together a retraction.

Jojo begins acting out with his mother, angry at her seeming lack of patriotism. Rosie opposes the war and the Nazi doctrine, openly mourns the public hangings of those who resist the Nazis, and she espouses her belief that positivity and optimism are the best ways to fight oppression. Rosie also tells Elsa that Jojo is still innocent and laments the doctrine that he believes, which makes it impossible for her to reveal Elsa to him. Meanwhile, Jojo, who is warming up to Elsa, argues with an increasingly hostile Adolf about his patriotism. Jojo spots his mother leaving a "free Germany" message in town.

Jojo and Elsa are alone in the house when the Gestapo stops by to search the house, with Klenzendorf in tow. After a volley of "Heil Hitlers" they ransack the place, finally going upstairs where Elsa poses as Jojo's late sister Inge and produces Inge's papers. Klenzendorf inspects them and quizzes Elsa on her birthday, confirming its authenticity. After the Gestapo leave, a shaken Elsa reveals that she got the date wrong and that Klenzendorf had covered for her. Elsa is convinced that the Gestapo are aware of the deception. Later, Jojo finds Rosie hanged in the public square. He returns home and tries to stab Elsa, but breaks down in tears.

With the Allies closing in, the civilian population (including the Hitler Youth) are armed to defend the city. Jojo runs into his friend Yorki, who tells him Hitler has committed suicide. Despondent, Jojo hides until the battle is won, with the Americans occupying the city. As he wanders the city, he is seized by soldiers alongside a wounded Klenzendorf. After a brief conversation, Klenzendorf tells Jojo to look after his sister, then tears off Jojo's Hitler Youth coat and denounces him as a Jew to ensure that the soldiers do not execute him. The soldiers drag Jojo away as Klenzendorf is executed by firing squad.

Jojo runs home and, to stop Elsa from leaving, tells her Germany won the war. Recognising her despair, he recites a new letter from Nathan, claiming that he and Jojo have figured out a way to smuggle her to Paris. Elsa confesses that Nathan died of tuberculosis the previous year. Jojo tells her he loves her, and she tells him she loves him "like a younger brother". A disheveled Adolf angrily confronts Jojo for siding with Elsa, and Jojo kicks him out the window. Outside, Elsa sees American soldiers and realizes the Allies have won the war. She slaps Jojo in the face for lying and they then dance in the street.

Cast[edit]

Identical twins Gilby and Hardy Griffin Davis, younger brothers of Roman Griffin Davis, portray a series of Hitlerjugend clones in the care of Fräulein Rahm in cameo appearances. Joe Weintraub, Brian Caspe, Gabriel Andrews, and Billy Rayner portray Junker, Mueller, Klum, and Frosch, the fellow agents of Deertz.

Production[edit]

In March 2018, it was revealed that Taika Waititi would direct, write, co-produce, and co-star in the film, as an imaginary Adolf Hitler. Speaking of the context of the role, Waititi stated "It's my version of... a lonely boy's best version of his hero, which is really his dad," referring to the fact that the film's protagonist, a ten-year-old boy, is desperate to join Hitler's ranks during World War II.[18] Later that month, Scarlett Johansson joined the cast to portray the child's mother, who is secretly anti-Nazi,[19] and in April 2018, Sam Rockwell joined the cast as "a Nazi captain who runs a Hitler Youth camp."[20] In May 2018, Rebel Wilson was added to play "a brutish instructor in the Hitler Youth Camp the young man has just been recruited to attend." Filming was set to begin in Prague shortly thereafter,[21] and exterior shots took place in Žatec and Úštěk.[22] Later in May, newcomer Roman Griffin Davis was officially cast as the lead, the son of Johansson's character, and New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie was added as Elsa Korr, the Jewish girl whom Johansson's Rosie hides in her home.[23] 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.[24][25]

Principal production started on May 28, 2018.[23] Reshoots were completed in February 2019.[26]

Music[edit]

Waititi enlisted Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino to score the film. Music was recorded with a 35-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. The soundtrack also contains contemporary music, notably "Komm, gib mir deine Hand", the German version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles. While watching documentaries on the Hitler Youth during research, Waititi noted "similarities between the crowd at Hitler's rallies and the frenzy at Beatles concerts". Giacchino helped secure the rights to the song by contacting Paul McCartney, with whom he had previously worked.[6]

Release[edit]

Jojo Rabbit had its world premiere at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2019.[27] It screened at Fantastic Fest in Austin on September 19, 2019,[28][29] and opened the San Diego International Film Festival on October 15, 2019.[30][31] It also screened at film festivals in Chicago,[32] Philadelphia,[33] Hawaii,[34] New Orleans,[35] Chapel Hill, North Carolina,[36] Middleburg, Virginia,[37] and at the UK Jewish Film Festival.[38] The film was theatrically released in New Zealand and the United States on October 18, 2019, opening in several cities before expanding in the following weeks and playing in 798 theaters in the U.S. nationwide beginning November 8, 2019.[39][40]

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the film as a digital download on February 4, 2020 and on DVD and Blu-ray disc formats in the United States on February 18.[41] In international territories, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.[42]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Jojo Rabbit grossed $33.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $57 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $90.3 million.[7][43]

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).[44] The film expanded to 55 theaters in 10 cities the following week, making $1 million,[45] and in its third weekend, it grossed $2.3 million from 256 theaters.[46] It went wide the following weekend, making $4 million from 802 theaters.[47] The film's theater count peaked the following weekend, making $2.8 million from 995 theaters, before making $1.6 million in its sixth weekend.[48][49] The weekend of the Oscars, during the film's 17th week of release, it made $1.5 million from 1,096 theaters, for a running total of $30.3 million.[50]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 79% based on 414 reviews, with an average rating of 7.56/10. 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."[8] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 58 out of 100, based on 57 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[51] 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.[45]

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."[52] 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."[53]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the movie 3.5 out of four stars, lauding it as "uncomfortably funny, unapologetically insensitive, cheerfully outrageous" and concludes that writer-director Waititi "delivers a timely, anti-hate fractured fairy tale."[54] In another positive review, Stephanie Zacharek of Time Magazine writes: "It's Waititi's ability to balance unassailable goofy moments with an acknowledgment of real-life horrors that makes the movie exceptional."[55] Adam Graham of the Detroit News gave it the grade "A−", calling it an "enchanting, whimsical satire about the absurdity of war as seen through a child's eyes" as well as "a smart, accessible, inclusive film that opens doors at a time when many are slamming them shut."[56]

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."[57] 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."[58]

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" and that "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."[59] Keith Uhlich of Slant Magazine gave the film zero stars, criticizing the film's premise, lack of historical accuracy and realism, and 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."[60] Little White Lies' Hannah Woodhead criticized the film for its inclusion of a sympathetic Nazi character, Captain Klenzendorf, writing that it "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."[61]

The film received a negative critical reception in the U. K., with Robbie Collin giving it one-star out of five [62], and saying that he was, "aghast", saying that the scenes at the camp were, "the laziest rip-off of Moonrise Kingdom I've seen in my life", and saying that, "there's no sense that anything is at stake...it sentimentalizes and trivializes the Holocaust...the stuff that JoJo is indoctrinated with is made up of old Borat lines, and that's not what anti-Semitism is." [63] Peter Bradshaw also gave it a one-star rating, saying, "There are no insights to be had - and no laughs", and calling it, "strangely redundant".[64] Mark Kermode was slightly more positive, but still said that it was, "neither sharp enough nor funny enough to cut to the heart of its subject matter."[65]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
AACTA Awards January 3, 2020 Best International Screenplay Taika Waititi Won [66]
Academy Awards February 9, 2020 Best Picture Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, and Chelsea Winstanley Nominated [67]
Best Supporting Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Taika Waititi Won
Best Production Design Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková Nominated
Best Costume Design Mayes C. Rubeo Nominated
Best Film Editing Tom Eagles Nominated
American Cinema Editors January 17, 2020 Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical Won [68]
Art Directors Guild Awards February 1, 2020 Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film Ra Vincent Nominated [69]
British Academy Film Awards February 2, 2020 Best Actress in a Supporting Role Scarlett Johansson Nominated [70]
Best Adapted Screenplay Taika Waititi Won
Best Costume Design Mayes C. Rubeo Nominated
Best Editing Tom Eagles Nominated
Best Original Score Michael Giacchino Nominated
Best Production Design Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková Nominated
Casting Society of America January 30, 2020 Feature Studio Or Independent – Comedy Des Hamilton Won [71]
Costume Designers Guild Awards January 28, 2020 Excellence in Period Film Mayes C. Rubeo Won [72]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 12, 2020 Best Picture Jojo Rabbit Nominated [73]
Best Supporting Actress Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Roman Griffin Davis Won
Thomasin McKenzie Nominated
Archie Yates Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Taika Waititi Nominated
Best Comedy Jojo Rabbit Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards January 25, 2020 Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Taika Waititi Nominated [74]
Golden Globe Awards January 5, 2020 Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jojo Rabbit Nominated [75]
Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Roman Griffin Davis Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association Awards January 9, 2020 Best Picture Jojo Rabbit Nominated [76]
Best Male Director Taika Waititi Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
Best Performance by an Actor or Actress 23 and Under Roman Griffin Davis Nominated
Thomasin McKenzie Nominated
Hollywood Film Awards November 3, 2019 Cinematography Award Mihai Mălaimare Jr. Won [77]
Production Design Award Ra Vincent Won
Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 23, 2019 Best Original Score in a Feature Film Michael Giacchino Nominated [78]
Humanitas Prize January 24, 2020 Comedy or Musical Feature Film Jojo Rabbit Won [79]
Location Managers Guild Awards 24 October 2020 Outstanding Locations in a Period Film Jan Adler Nominated [80]
Producers Guild of America Awards January 18, 2020 Best Theatrical Motion Picture Jojo Rabbit Nominated [81]
Satellite Awards December 19, 2019 Best Actor – Motion Picture Comedy/Musical Taika Waititi Nominated [82]
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 19, 2020 Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Alfie Allen, Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Thomasin McKenzie, Stephen Merchant, Sam Rockwell, Taika Waititi and Rebel Wilson Nominated [83]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Scarlett Johansson Nominated
Toronto International Film Festival September 15, 2019 Grolsch People's Choice Award Jojo Rabbit Won [84]
Writers Guild of America Awards February 1, 2020 Best Adapted Screenplay Taika Waititi Won [85]
[86]

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