Ever been to a film where you laugh almost as hard as you cry?
This is clearly the most innovative, magical film of 2019. From my standpoint, New Zealand Director Taika Waititi is the most creative Director working today. Following up his sensational What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), he now gives us a tear-jerking comedy about a 10-year old German boy in 1943 who has an imaginary friend named Adolf Hitler. Quite frankly, it is impossible to describe the magnificent texture of this film, and I can only urge all of you to get quickly to the theatre and see it.
Roman Griffin Davis plays Jojo, a kid with a single mother who was required to participate in the Nazi Youth Movement given his country’s need for soldiers of any age. With the help of advice from Hitler who could appear to him at any time, he enthusiastically embraces the Nazi party.
The problem arises when Jojo is urged to step forward at a camp meeting and demonstrate his dedication to gladly take the life of a German adversary by killing a rabbit that is handed to him. Finding it to be impossible, Jojo flees to the forest with derision reigning down upon him.
Trying to regain his standing with his comrades, Jojo grabs a grenade and hurls it forward, only to have it bounce off a tree and leave him limping and with facial scars. With even Hitler telling him that he looks like a scarred beast, Jojo seeks advice from the caustic, alcoholic Nazi Youth leader played in a highly amusing fashion by Sam Rockwell. Having suffered his own injury which forced him off of the battle front, Rockwell embraces his task of training young boys and girls as long as it doesn’t interfere with downing a flask of whisky.
But while Jojo’s relationship with Hitler reaches a level that will leave you transfixed, his life dances on disaster when he discovers that his mother is hiding a 14 year old Jewish girl in their attic. To begin with, Scarlett Johansson gives a spectacular performance as Jojo’s mother Rosie, a wine drinking German woman trying to make sense out of a war that has left her husband away on what is alleged to be combat. Ms. Johansson is remarkable in every scene trying to help her son find some joy in the world, and there is a scene where the Nazis catch up to her that will leave you literally sobbing beyond description.
This film has many strengths from various talented actors which includes Rebel Wilson as a Nazi assistant to Mr. Rockwell. She is at her flamboyant best as a dimwitted Nazi supporter who considers the principal role of German women to find a way to quickly procreate.
And while Archie Yates gives an outstanding comic performance as Yorki, the 10-year old pal of Jojo, it is Thomasin McKenzie who will capture your heart as Elsa, the young Jewish girl hiding in Jojo’s home. Initially startled to discover her, wait until you see the interaction of these two young people as Jojo seeks information on why all Jews should not be exterminated. As their relationship grows, you find two kids finding meaning in life as they try to avoid being exposed to Nazi investigators while Allied bombers start to destroy their city.
On top of everything else, this film has a fabulous movie score that will leave you standing and tapping your foot during the closing credits. Mr. Waititi’s film has to be in the running for numerous Oscar nominations, and I can safely say that it will challenge for Best Picture of 2019.