It’s difficult to stand out in a comedy when you are trying to pull focus away from an actor playing Adolf Hitler, which is part of the reason why Scarlett Johansson’s turn in JOJO RABBIT is really special.
The dominant conversation coming out of early screenings of Taika Waititi’s JOJO RABBIT swirl around the writer-director’s decision to play Adolf Hitler on screen in the movie. Hitler is a figment of imagination of the lead character, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a boy growing up in WWII-era Germany who dreams of one day fighting for the Nazi coalition.
Adolf Hitler in JOJO RABBIT isn’t the real Hitler, by any means. He is, instead, the version that Jojo sees in his mind, so the character is often very exaggerated for comical effect.
The movie is grounded outside of Jojo’s imagination, where the boy is being raised by single mom Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), and it’s the AVENGERS actress who ends up being the beating heart of the whole affair. Rosie’s husband is off fighting for Germany in the war, so Jojo is her responsibility. Also, she doesn’t agree with her son about the war, and that is explored by Taika Waititi in unexpected and deeply moving ways.
Rosie is a pitch-perfect supporting player. She is there to help Jojo along on his emotional journey, and Scarlett Johansson overwhelms the screen with her charisma, humor and inner light. She helps balance the tone of JOJO RABBIT, which often attempts to be surreal and funny without ever forgetting that it is a coming-of-age movie that happens to be set during the Holocaust.
After taking home the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, JOJO RABBIT believed itself to have serious Oscar® buzz. How the movie is received by critics and audiences will go a long way toward determining if it has the legs to contend in a lengthy Oscar race.
JOJO RABBIT is playing in select theatres now and will expand in the coming weeks.