Happy Thanksgiving from Slashfilmcast! David and Devindra review Jojo Rabbit, the latest film by Taika Waititi. Find out whether the mix of humor and drama work well together in this WWII satire. Stay for the after dark as the duo cartalk about Ford, Ferrari, and Tesla.
Read about how James Mangold captured 100mph in Ford v Ferrari here.
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There is so much more we’re going to learn about New Zealand-born actress Thomasin McKenzie in the coming years. With each new role, we see her abilities tested and our expectations exceeded. After a small role in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies when she was barely even a teenager, she continued working in shorts and local television series, until her breakthrough role in 2018 in Debra Granik’s much acclaimed Leave No Trace, opposite Ben Foster.
Not surprisingly, the offers and work came in rapidly, and in 2019, she can be seen in the just released Netflix feature The King, directed by David Michôd and co-starring Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, in which she plays Henry V’s sister Philippa. At the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, she also starred in the Australian biographical crime drama True History of the Kelly Gang, which presumably will open stateside in 2020. And in September 2020, she’ll be seen in director Edgar Wright’s latest work, Last Night in Soho.
But it’s her current remarkable take as the Jewish teenager Elsa in writer/director Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit that is garnering her significant notices in this World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) whose world view is turned upside-down when he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.
/Film spoke with McKenzie in Chicago during the recent Chicago International Film Festival, and she discussed the responsibility of playing the only Jewish character in a film set during World War II in Germany, the benefits of shooting chronologically, and why she thinks it’s important this story be told today. Jojo Rabbit is in limited release, opening wider in the coming weeks.
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Put Taika Waititi and Stephen Merchant in a room together, and what do you get? Pure comedic chaos, as the Jojo Rabbit director and his star exchange jokes, draw mustaches on each other, and swing unpredictably from jokey banter to serious filmmaking conversations in a Vanity Fair scene breakdown — much like the tone of Waititi’s World War II satire itself. But watch this Jojo Rabbit scene breakdown long enough and you’ll see Merchant and Waititi get serious about the heartfelt themes at the center of this film, and address the criticisms that have been lobbied against the Nazi comedy.
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The ads describe Jojo Rabbit as being from the “visionistical” director Taika Waititi, and somehow there’s no better world to describe this iconoclastic auteur. While the world took notice when he was picked to helm Thor: Ragnarock, fans have long sought out his unique blend of comedy and pathos in films like Eagle vs Shark, Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the gloriously batty What We Do In The Shadows.
Jojo is presented as an anti-hate satire, and some loved it – /Film’s Chris Evangelista called it “a workd of strange magic” – while some critics battled against its charms, unable to be swayed by the tonal shifts and mix of whimsy marred by an undercurrent of terror. The audience at TIFF cast the definitive vote, declaring it the best-of-fest People’s Choice winner.
Following the film’s first screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, Taika and his cast took the stage to answer a few questions where they revealed more about the challenges of getting the tone right, of the inspiration for some of the character performances, and how the whole thing came together. The director was joined on stage by Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Roman Griffith Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. Now the that film is in theaters, we have compiled the best and most interesting quotes from this Q&A.
These comments have been edited for clarity and concision.
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Adaptation, by its very nature, is transformative. A screenwriter must necessarily make changes to another form of written work in order for that work to function in the medium of film. Fans of the original work will often judge the value of the adaptation by fidelity to the source material, judging a film by how much it adheres to the story beats, tone, and even specific dialogue that they remember and appreciate from the work they grew to love in the first place. But sometimes the adaptational process subjects the original work to such transformative pressures that it’s barely recognizable.
Take, for instance, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. Ostensibly, Waititi adapted the screenplay from a novel by Christine Leunens titled Caging Skies, but if you’re familiar with the kinds of films Waititi makes, Caging Skies seems like an exceedingly odd choice to inspire this particular filmmaker. Most notably, Caging Skies is a very, very bleak story. It is so bleak, in fact, that even though the book jacket for the recent U.S. printing describes the story as “darkly comic,” that darkness is so stifling that I struggle to understand why anyone would think it’s remotely funny. And yet, when you look at Jojo Rabbit, the bones of this story are still there, even if radically altered to serve different ends.
This post contains spoilers for Jojo Rabbit.
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It’s a little too early in awards season to make any grand claims about frontrunners and whatnot, but word on the street is that Jojo Rabbit will very likely be a key player when the time comes, and a new featurette with director Taika Waititi introducing the film’s cast shows us why.
Based on Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, the film follows a young German boy named Jojo (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis) who finds himself questioning the Nazi principles being instilled in him at a young age when he encounters a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) being hidden in their attic by his mother (Scarlett Johansson). Oh, and did we mention that this is a comedy that makes Nazis look like complete fools and pushes forth a message of love and acceptance? Watch below! Read More »
The responsibility that we as a species have to ensure history lives on is a complicated one, and the role art plays in that gets even messier. With events like the Holocaust, the obligation to tell that story responsibly becomes even more critical. But that’s not to say that fiction has no place in the narrative. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit takes a look at very real horrors through the eyes of a child. As it turns out, children find much of the adult world absolutely ridiculous. It’s needlessly complicated, unbearably messy, and most of the time they just don’t know what all the fuss is about.
What Waititi manages to do in Jojo Rabbit is incredibly complicated in that he shares a horrific tale through something incredibly unique, beautiful, devastating, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Loose adaptations might often be lacking from the emotional punch of the source material, but this book nerd’s not ashamed to say that she much prefers how Jojo Rabbit chooses to tell the tale.
Let’s be clear here—Waititi isn’t the first director to tell a compelling story about World War II. What’s so astonishing about his film is how it managed to balance the comedy, drama, and unbearable reality of one of the darkest times in world history. Each one of the below films either does part of what Jojo Rabbit does, or at least tries to.
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Right up to the day of Jojo Rabbit‘s theatrical release, Fox Searchlight keeps rolling out the clips and featurettes, this time giving a peek into the making of Taika Waititi‘s anti-hate satire. But the new Jojo Rabbit featurette, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the film alongside the requisite glowing words from the stars, actually does a good job of addressing some of the criticisms levied against the movie. Watch the Jojo Rabbit featurette below.
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Cool Posts From Around the Web:
“This table is Switzerland,” Scarlett Johansson‘s Rosie declares in the new Jojo Rabbit clip — which is a bit of a different game to play with her son Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) than “The floor is lava.” Because there’s not much fun to be had in this game between mother and son at political odds in World War II Germany. Rosie is tired of war and the oppressive Nazi regime, while Jojo is fully indoctrinated into the Nazi beliefs, passionately declaring that Germany will defeat its enemies. It’s certainly a different kind of dinner-time argument in the new Jojo Rabbit clip below.
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Jojo Rabbit‘s script ended up on the Black List, and the movie has popular filmmaker Taika Waititi at the helm. Yet the dark comedy set in Nazi Germany wasn’t exactly an easy sell for Fox Searchlight, and the studio might not have made the movie at all had Waititi turned down the critical role of an imaginary Adolf Hitler. In a new interview, Waititi reveals that the studio had to pitch him on the idea of playing the part, primarily because they felt that it needed to be handled in a specific way that only Waititi himself understood.
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