Based on Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, Jojo Rabbit tells the story of a Hitler youth who finds out his mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. If this sounds like a drama with a serious tone, it’s not. Along the way, young Jojo also interacts and deals with his imaginary friend, an idiotic version of Adolf Hitler (played by director Taika Waititi). Riding the fine line between respect and humor is something most would not dare to attempt. Yet Waititi not only attempts, but succeeds in making a satirical black comedy that offers heavy laughter on the one hand, while shifting towards pathos at times on the other.
Watch It: If you want to see a visually pleasing laugh-fest that addresses a tragic era in human history with some great performances while riding an emotional Ferris wheel.
Skip It: If you want to see a drama that holds Hitler in his realistic place in human history. (The film has divided critics over how the material is handled.)
According to patterns in awards voting for over the last ten years, it’s likely that Jojo Rabbit will earn best picture nominations come awards season. Is it the best of year? My vote is no. Yet it will be no surprise to me if it earns such recognition, when considering the careful direction of Waititi towards such a story, one of the best performances by Johansson I’ve ever seen (and pleasurable to see her apart from the Marvel universe here), and top-notch cinematography (for a comedy film!) and music that’s meant for the big screen. Young Jojo Rabbit gets my recommendation as a must see.
Zimm Score: 8.4/10
Pain and Glory
In my second brief review, I’ll be touching on a Spanish film by director Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria). Starring famous actor Antonio Banderas, Banderas received the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor, while the film, according to many, has perhaps a 50-50 chance of being nominated for best picture in the upcoming awards ceremonies.
This isn’t necessarily a great “chance,” considering how many outstanding films have and are being released this year. Plus, being an international film hasn’t bode well in the past for other such films. Yet Pain and Glory weaves together different vignettes of a film director’s life (Banderas) to present an outstanding turnout for Banderas and one of the best films of the year.
Watch It: If you want to empathize with a character dealing with a creative crisis and internal conflict, a joyful and unforeseen ending, beautiful music, and a story that makes strong usage of flashbacks.
Skip It: If you want a nude-free film (there’s one scene with male nudity of one man), exclusively heterosexual relations, a story that emphasizes plot over character, a flashback-free movie, and a subtitle-free film. (Flashbacks occur throughout and it’s a Spanish film.)
Pain and Glory gets a recommendation from me, though understandably won’t be for everyone. Admittedly, the story is somewhat weak, and conflict exists mostly within the character, as he’s his own worst enemy and hindrance. Yet the performance by Banderas is welcoming, especially if you, like me, still are tempted to associate him with only The Mask of Zorro. Additionally, Penelope Cruz stars and makes a great portrayal of the main character’s mother during flashbacks. If nothing else, the film stays true to its name in brilliant fashion.
Zimm Score: 7.8/10