Ah, 2019. One of the greatest cinematic years in recent memory. Jojo Rabbit was only the tip of the iceberg.

2019 was also the year I finally took Scarlett Johansson seriously as an actress (check out Marriage Story when you get the chance).

I rented and watched Jojo Rabbit the same day it was released to Redbox. I waited a while for it, and wanted to catch Jojo before the Oscars Award Show that year.

Alas, Jojo had to be the one Best Picture contender that I didn’t watch until after said Awards Show. Release dates are sometimes a nuisance.

Half of the Jojo Rabbit theatrical poster.
Jojo Rabbit. Fox Searchlight.

Funny Fuhrer?

In spite of what early marketing promotions suggested, Jojo Rabbit is not a Nazi comedy. No, Hitler is not glorified nor is he remotely likable in this.

He’s merely a figment of a lonely, fatherless boy’s imagination. A boy in need of guidance and a cause to believe in. A boy nicknamed “Jojo Rabbit” because of his perceived cowardice.

Director/Writer Taika Waititi, plays the German tyrant. He is simply outstanding in this. He flawlessly captures Hitler’s mannerisms and applies his own comedic chops to relegate him to a buffoon.

Waititi exudes strong Johnny Depp vibes here and showcases the range of Hitler’s public persona: the inspiration, the leader, the god, the demon, and finally, the loser.

As I said, this movie is not a glorification of Hitler, by any means.

A scene of Jojo Rabbit where Jojo and Hitler leap in the air.
Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in the film JOJO RABBIT. Photo by Kimberley French. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Taika has so much going for him, and I can’t wait to see what else he has to offer. The other performance worth mentioning here is Scarlett’s.

A Mother’s Love

Scarlett’s character, i.e. Jojo’s mother, shelters a Jewish girl in her home. She’s unsure how to make her son follow her example because of his blind fanaticism.

As his mother, Rosie wants to teach Jojo love and compassion, but struggles with providing him guidance because of the Nazis’ far-reaching propaganda.

A mother holding her toddler with a sunset in the background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In the movie’s most impactful scene (in my opinion), Jojo is verbally-abusing his mother at the dinner table. Even his imaginary tyrant friend was like, “Yeah, imma head out…”

Instead of getting upset, Rosie does a little role play. She puts on her absent husband’s army jacket and smears her face with fireplace ash, to resemble a beard.

“How DARE you talk to your mother that way?!” she says in a fake masculine voice.

A scene in Jojo Rabbit where Scarlett Johansson pretends to be Jojo's father.
Jojo Rabbit. Fox Searchlight.

Playing the Father

The father is meant to teach his kids discipline, whereas the mother teaches love. It’s very difficult for one parent to play both roles.

“Your mother is just doing what she can,” Rosie says to Jojo, still acting as his father.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that fatherless kids will seek guidance outside of the home. Their newfound role models rarely have the child’s best interest at heart.

Jojo Rabbit is an excellent coming-of-age story about what happens when the State invades the home and replaces the family.

Brilliantly written and directed, it balances moments of levity and others that are absolutely devastating (pay attention to the shoes).

2019 was an awesome year for cinema, and Jojo was the perfect way to say “auf wiedersehen” to the bygone year.

Grade: A

Watch Video Essay on my ToomIgnite YouTube Channel

One thought on “How Jojo Rabbit is a Wake-Up Call for Absent Fathers

Have a Comment? Let's Discuss!