A Rabbit Caught In Several Headlights #filmreview #jojorabbit

I realise I hate trailers. They’re either utterly useless, pick out the only good bits and leave you gnawing your seat with frustration when you realise you’ve been had or, as with Jojo Rabbit, leave you expecting one film only to get another.

And even that’s not totally true.

If you go by the trailer I saw you are expecting a comedy, mostly satire and undoubtedly tasteless (the hero is a ten year old member of the Hitler Youth with his imaginary friend, one A Hitler). Okay, what with all the recent sensitivity over antisemitism raising its very ugly bug eyes during the recent election and me living in a hand-wringingly woke, wishy washy liberal part of South London, seeing a film that even warns you at the start – alongside the usual guff about violent scenes, strong language and sexual references – that it contains discriminatory material is going to be a challenge. You know, given how tasteless is my sense of humour that any laughs will be accompanied by a quick scan of the audience to see if there are any disapproving looks.

I consoled myself with the notion that any tastelessness will be played for laughs, poking fun at the undoubted baddies in this story. And there are laughs, both verbal and visual.

But there are also some ‘woah, wtf was that?’ moments too. There’s a scene where Jojo is with his mum, played with gusto by Scarlett Johanssen chatting distractedly about life when they enter the market square and are confronted by five hanging figures, clearly punishment killings by the local Nazis. This is a 12A film and it knocked me, so goodness knows what a ten year old might make of that. The tentative laughs that came from Rebel Wilson’s hard eyed psychotic camp leader suddenly didn’t seem so funny. And when Stephen Merchant, playing a perma-smiling Gestapo agent terrorises Jojo and the 17 year old Jewish refugee who’s living in his loft and pretending to be his sister, it really is neither funny nor comfortable.

But these moments of genuine awfulness make the satire and farce all the more powerful in their way. They say, in ways it is often difficult to get across that this behaviour would be funny if it wasn’t so awful (not the hangings obviously – you can’t play hangings for laughs).

It almost felt like I didn’t know how I was meant to experience the film. A serious drama about the Nazis and I’d know how to react; a comedy and ditto. But this? I learnt early that I had to be sure where the scene was going before I knew what my response should be. And even then the director caught me out again and again.

Basically I had to work hard at this, had to be ready to take the laughs but also turn them off pretty much instantly depending where the story went.

It’s not exactly thought-provoking; the story line isn’t novel. But I left the cinema wondering what I’d seen and what I took away from it.

And twenty-four hours later….

The child actors are excellent

The ensemble does a great job especially the known comic actors subverting what you expect

The core theme – about wanting to belong, even if the only club is the Nazi party – is put across well

But it’s not a comedy because it’s too uncomfortable. See it for yourself. I’ll be interested in what others think; it’s probably a film that will divide people with haters and lovers. I’m just not sure which I am. Yet.

PS I read an article today about a trip to Amsterdam and the Resistance museum. It would be understandable for the City to big up the resistance to something so abhorrent, but apparently the Dutch give equal time to the three categories of citizens during the occupation: the collaborators, the acceptors and the resistors. There was a significant Dutch Nazi party as well as a resistance and the majority were neither, just accepting their fate and trying to cope. Some 34000 Jews were sent from Amsterdam to the camps and 18 survived. You need local actors to achieve that. The point of the article though wasn’t to criticise or patronise but rather to wonder what would have happened here had we been occupied. Much the same of course because most of us would either want to try and belong or at least duck and dive and the courage to resist would only fall on a relative few. Like Jojo, it seems the most obvious thing to do, to get by, to be something. He’s only ten but even so…

It’s too easy to let things slide, to accept, isn’t it? Maybe that’s the take away. I know that I’ll keep wondering about Jojo Rabbit for a while yet.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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20 Responses to A Rabbit Caught In Several Headlights #filmreview #jojorabbit

  1. I remember seeing a trailer for Van Helsing 2……….. what a rip off. It was actually for Solomon Kane, which we had on video already!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds interesting. And I adore Stephen Merchant. Seems like it might be a movie that’s easier to view on your own, to make of as you wish–without worrying about those around you. But then I guess that’s part of what cinema is all about: reactions in community.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Maybe the intention was to do exactly what it did to you. Make us all think – not only about then, but also now……

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Living under Trump with all the white nationalism and anti-Semitism now so out in the open, I have had to think hard about my judgement of “good Germans.” I was too smug. I can easily see choosing to just go along instead of risking death by speaking out. Sounds like the movie might provoke the same wondering.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tidalscribe says:

    I wasn’t sure if I would want to see this, but it is brave to make a film like that and risk it not being understood . I guess the comedy parts make the violent scenes all the more shocking. Haven’t most of us wondered how we would conduct our lives under occupation; probably making excuses such as ‘ can’t join the resistance, have to look after my family…’

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary Smith says:

    It sounds like an uncomfortable cinema experience, but maybe that’s the point of it – or one of the points. A thought provoking review, Geoff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      I think it probably didn’t Achieve any specific goal sadly. The comedy that was there lost its point in amongst the jarring thought provoking and that sad badly with the flippancy if the comedy.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. trifflepudling says:

    I can’t bear any sort of attempt at humour or satire re. Hitler and the Nazis. It just seems completely wrong to me. Brave and broad-minded of you to go.
    As has been mentioned by others, I’ve thought about what I’d do if occupied and know I would just keep my head down and hope for the best. How anyone is ever brave enough for any sort of resistance is just amazing. I don’t think I and many others need to go to a film to appreciate this, although I know you being a thoughtful person will have long since considered how you’d act!
    Hoping to see David Copperfield and Little Women. The Copperfield should be quite a riot (hopefully!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yep Copperfield is on the list. Little Women is fantastic. See it! I’m planning on 1917 as my next trip. Watch this space. PS I’m pretty sure I’d keep my head down.

      Like

  8. Pam Lazos says:

    I did like this moving despite the jarring turns from comedy to tragedy and back again. It reminded me of the movie “Life is Beautiful” by Roberto Benigni, but without Benigni’s light touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ellenbest24 says:

    I wad not going to watch but now I will. You write a baffling but intriguing review. A girly day out with lunch I don’t think, but a venture on my own … probably. I will let you know in due-course.

    Liked by 1 person

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