Subtlety Is Overrated
I used to find it amusing that JoJo Rabbit was a Disney movie, but now it makes perfect sense.
The new Taika Waititi film, an anti-Nazi satire about a boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, seems like the absolute last movie that Disney would ever choose to produce. But when they bought 20th Century Fox, they acquired all of the studio’s upcoming films, and had no choice but to release them. Which is fortunate, because it’s hard for me to envision a circumstance in which JoJo Rabbit is not my favorite film of the year. And the decade. And quite possibly, the 21st century.
I went into the movie with incredibly medium expectations. I thought it would be good, but if my friends hadn’t wanted to see it, I would have been perfectly content to wait and stream it in February. But one thing led to another, and I was gifted one of my greatest cinematic experiences in recent memory. I can’t stress enough how much I love this movie. There are plenty of films that claim to combine comedy and drama, but rarely does one make me laugh out loud as frequently as this, while still being beautiful, poignant, and tear-jerking. It’s a WWII-era Moonrise Kingdom, infused with the sensibilities of the guy who made What We Do In The Shadows. I could talk more, but you really should just see it. The less you know going into it, the better.
It’s interesting, though, that this film has received a lot of criticism for its lack of subtlety. It’s criticized for being too much of a “feel good” movie, for having too simple of a plot, for not taking its “satire against hate” mantra far enough. Which is completely valid, even if I think personally think the argument is a bunch of malarkey. The film is completely saturated in color, making it feel like an adult storybook about the goodness that lies in non-Hitler human beings, just waiting to be discovered. It feels like the kind of movie that Walt Disney would have strived to produce, had he lived long enough to expand into Oscar films. The fact that it’s uproariously funny is just a bonus.
As I’ve only mentioned here about 9,000 times, the biggest struggle of my college years has been attempting to develop a creative aesthetic for myself. Every great screenwriter, from Quentin Tarantino to Tina Fey, has an indistinguishable voice that is uniquely theirs. I know these things take time, but it doesn’t make me any less eager to find my own. And one of the rare breakthroughs in this journey came this weekend. The utter perfection that is JoJo Rabbit made me realize that I don’t care much for subtlety. The film may not be intellectually robust, nor does it leave audiences thinking for days. It doesn’t go out of its way to hide its positive message, or try to be remotely realistic. But the feeling that it produces for those two hours in the theater is nothing short of magic. That is the kind of art I want to make. If it costs me subtlety, then so be it.
Student, Cinephile, Gradually Becoming Himself