Perhaps unfairly, a couple external factors negatively affected my experience of Jojo Rabbit:
The Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse programmed the trailer for Terrence Malick’s forthcoming A Hidden Life before Jojo Rabbit, throwing a spotlight on the “good German” trope they both share. Of course, both quiet and loud German resistance to Nazi atrocities existed, and I’m not trying to argue that there shouldn’t be any more stories about it — after all, the ne plus ultra is required viewing for all: Schindler’s List. Jojo Rabbit‘s darkly satirical take is undoubtedly a fresh twist, but still: the trope threatens to mute the experiences of the victims. Taika Waititi is working here in the long and noble tradition of mocking the devil, and for that I applaud him. But the contemporaneous AMC TV show Preacher also had the nerve to directly depict and poke fun at Hitler, so it’s not exactly unique.
The casting of Sam Rockwell as a conflicted Nazi, which inadvertently (or not?) echoes his role as a tortured racist in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Again, it’s not like “bad” people don’t do “good” things, but in our present era, with white supremacy re-empowered around the world, I’m disinclined to entertain the notion of an even partially-redeemed Nazi. As a climactic moment in a fiction, this particular character’s act of mercy feels designed to make audiences feel better, rather than ponder the larger problem.
As a thought experiment: I’d rather watch a movie about the successful intervention in the life of a budding child fascist than the opposite. But I spent the entire movie distracted by these minefields rather than taking the movie on its own terms.
So as not to only complain: Jojo Rabbit an extremely funny and well-made film, with great acting all around — including one of Scarlet Johansson’s strongest-ever performances — so good that I wonder where she’s been all these years.