Jojo Rabbit (2019)

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I have been meaning to get around to reviewing Jojo Rabbit (2019) for a while now, aside from a brief overview of some the film costumes from our 2019 FIDM exhibit coverage. It’s one of those films that takes a very serious topic (World War II) and injects just enough surreal humor to make the otherwise deeply depressing subject matter enjoyable.

Directed by Taika Waititi, and costumed by Mayes C. Rubio (who is currently wrapping up the last bit of WandaVision), the film is set in Germany during the waning months of World War II. The action is told through the point of view of Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, a 10-year-old member of the Hitler Youth, whose imaginary friend is Adolph Hitler (played by Waititi). Jojo’s beloved mother is Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), who he has a close bond with after the death of his father. Jojo believes Rosie is as devoted to the Third Reich as he is, but in reality, she is secretly working in the Resistance and hiding a young Jewish girl, Elsa, in their attic. Jojo is horrified when he learns that his mother has betrayed the Führer and is forced to grapple with the reality of who his parents really were after tragedy strikes. As he begins to get to know Elsa better, realizing she isn’t some lizard person who lays eggs and shoots fireballs from her eyes (yes, really), his imaginary pal Hitler starts to morph from silly and funny into something monstrous.

10-year-old ubermensch in training, Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis.

 

ScarJo gets some fabulous sweaters in this film. Her costumes are stylish but practical.

 

Elsa, played by Thomasin McKenzie, is a few years older than Jojo and she’s seen a lot of shit. She gradually begins to replace Hitler as the voice of reason in Jojo’s life.

 

Rosie visits Elsa in the attic every night after Jojo goes to bed, to feed her and talk with her.

 

When Jojo isn’t at the Jungvolk training camp, he and his mother enjoy biking around their village. Rosie is always upbeat and trying to keep a positive outlook for her son while the world is going to literal shit around them.

 

The cardigan and sweaters in this film are on point.

 

Sam Rockwell plays Captain Klenzendorf, the Nazi officer who runs the Jungvolk camp and who unexpectedly plays a significant role in resetting the trajectory of Jojo’s life as the Allies advance on their village.

 

Three’s a crowd when your imaginary pal Hitler is always lurking around, getting in the way.

 

Stephen Merchant plays Captain Deertz, a Gestapo agent who seems skeptical of Rosie’s allegiance to the Führer.

 

Rebel Wilson has a small part as Fräulein Rahm, an instructor for the girl’s section of the Jungvolk camp, and some sort of assistant in Captain Klenzendorf’s office.

 

Yorki (played by Archie Yates) is the closest thing Jojo has to an age-appropriate playmate. He gets conscripted into the German army at the age of 10, quickly rising through the ranks as the Allies lay waste to the village. Of note is the paper uniform Yorki wears towards the end of the film (which I couldn’t find a good image of), which wouldn’t surprise me if it was a historically accurate recreation.

 

Klenzendorf strides into battle in a uniform of his own design, with his assistant blasting an inspiring soundtrack on the portable photograph behind him. If you’re going to go down, might as well go down fighting and wearing a fringed cape.

The film overall is beautiful and tragic and uplifting and hysterically funny and deadly serious all wrapped up into a thoroughly enjoyable 1 hour and 48 minutes. I am not a huge fan of WWII films, but I’ve watched this one several times since it first came out, and it easily is one of my favorite recent historical flicks of the last couple of years.

 

Did you watch Jojo Rabbit? Tell us about it in the comments!

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

14 Responses

  1. Stephani Miller

    This film encompasses such difficult subject matter, but I think Waititi handled it masterfully. So poignant.

    Reply
  2. Karen K.

    I loved this movie, I laughed and cried. The costumes were beautiful and I particularly loved little Archie Yates, he stole every scene he was in. And Sam Rockwell broke my heart. Great movie but I don’t think I can watch it more than once.

    Reply
  3. Mu

    It is a fantastic movie and a great lesson in handling sensitive issues in comedy with layers and nuances. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone.

    Reply
  4. Michael McQuown

    Haven’t seen it yet, but — fair warning: Ms Johansson has made it very clear that she hates “scarjo” as she considers it lazy and disrespectful.

    Reply
  5. LadySlippers

    Scarlet Johansson was superb in her role as Rosie. Rosie was warm, light hearted, and loving towards her son. Rosie was also tolerant when Jojo was being intolerant and it appeared she knew her son would come around. The costumes Johansson wore were even better!

    Overall, I was not sure how I would feel about this movie but I enjoyed it. I also cried at times. A movie worth seeing — if if war movies aren’t your thing.

    Reply
  6. MrsC (Maryanne)

    I am contractually obliged to watch this, being from Taika’s home town, but I haven’t. I’m worried I won’t be able to unsee it. I can’t watch war stuff, I know it was bad times. But lovely to see the stills.

    Reply
    • The Scrivener

      I can’t watch war stuff either, but I loved this movie! There is just one battle scene toward the end, and it’s OTT ludicrous like that red cape — the absurdity of evil, to misquote Arendt.

      Reply
  7. Kathryn MacLennan

    I wanted every single one of Rosie’s outfits. I also liked how her rather distinctive shoes become an important plot element later in the film.

    Reply
  8. Suzie

    You will be pleased to learn that Rosie’s knit jumper that you loved so much, is actually a 1940’s pattern! Known as the “Rainbow Jumper”, it was part of Britan’s “make do and mend” campaign, encouraging women to use up all their spare scraps of wool or remake old jumpers. If you really want to nitpick you could say that Rosie is wearing a British jumper pattern in the middle of wartime-Germany, but I am just impressed that they made the jumper using a period pattern.

    https://subversivefemme.com/patterns/1940s-rainbow-jumper-from-wwii-make-do-and-mend-from-lavenda-915-403/

    Reply
  9. Sophie

    About the paper uniform on a ten-year-old soldier: I found that a particularly dark bit of comedy that aptly illustrated the absolute madness of the Nazi German war effort. A similar real-life example is the fact that a large portion of the Hungiaran army (on the side of the Axis powers) was sent to the Russian front equipped with boots that had SOLES made of CARDBOARD. That was just a small factor in the catastrophic loss of life that inevitably followed.

    Reply
  10. Nzie

    OOh, I was too busy to catch this when you posted it–so glad to see you got around to it. It is a humorous, arresting, incredible film which I found deeply moving and compelling, as well as quite funny. It’s a bit hard to recommend to people (you have to set it up, I think), but I thought it did a tremendous job capturing what it set out to do, and with great performances and costumes to boot.

    Reply

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