Quick Reviews: 'Jojo Rabbit', 'Ford V Ferrari' | Taika Waititi's Satire, Christian Bale, Matt Damon
When you see Taika Waititi’s name attached to something, you get an idea what the movie is going to be like. Jojo Rabbit is no exception to that, dancing on the thinnest possible tightrope with its satire, with steaming hot lava of poor taste under it. Credit where credit is due, Waititi manages to pull back the wittiness just at the right moments to let some meaning and humanity seep through the script. It’s a film that will turn off many with the explosive start that sets the tone early on, but those that endure it will find the treasure chest at the end.
The satire and humour strike just the right balance here by pointing out all the ridiculousness that comes with the subject matter, making lovely little jabs throughout. Scarlett Johansson (as Rosie) is marvellous in a slightly smaller role than she’s been used to recently, playing with full commitment the mother role who is both protective and not afraid to be the butt of the joke. Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo) keeps upping the level of his performance with every scene, finding himself keeping up with much more experienced actors. With his time on the screen being very limited, Archie Yates (Yorki) steals every single one of his scenes, often providing the biggest punchlines just with enough childlike wonder. All of these performances plus that of Thomasin McKenzie (Elsa) are helped by a risky yet challenging script by Waititi while the costume department also deserves some applause.
The first 15 minutes felt like the weakest part of the film, coming off as just a shock value for shock value’s sake. Neither the jokes nor performances turned out to be as satisfying as the rest of the movie. Luckily the dramatic points of the story swept some of that under the rug, balancing Jojo Rabbit to be a fairly cohesive piece of work.
Smileys: Humour, performance by a cast, screenplay, costume design, originality
Frowneys: Minor flaws with premise
This could be rabbit divisive among audiences.
FORD V FERRARI
When kicking into high gear, director James Mangold's Ford V Ferrari is an explosive sports film of the best kind. When downshifting it definitely has some bumps in the road with building out its characters—though based on real people—to fit into a movie narrative. However it still moves forward confidently enough for you to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The amazing parts of this are all the scenes involving racing and being locked in a car with the characters. They are wonderfully shot and edited, making you wish to see more and more of them the whole time. When there is motor racing, there is less acting which means stunt drivers need to step up and bring it and they did an exceptional job. Talking about acting, the main stars Christian Bale (as Ken Miles) and Matt Damon (Carroll Shelby) perform to their standards while Jon Bernthal (Lee Iacocca) and Noah Jupe (Peter) are a joy to watch as they navigate through some of the more generic scenes with grace. Everything to do with sound is knocked out of the park by the sound department, putting the viewer right in the middle of all the action.
Trying to balance out the action movie-ness, the film introduces quite a bit of classic drama elements in between. Unfortunately much of it comes off as unnecessary and tiring, the characters are poorly introduced and built out (again, even though they are based on real people) and the dramatic dialogue is just there to be dramatic, without ever really adding up to anything. Main examples of this are the scenes involving Miles’ household and the whole character of Leo Beebe who seems to be there only for the sassiness. The score by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders is a frustrating case as it seems to hit perfectly towards the end but in the beginning, it seems distractingly out of place and time with cues that try to belong to 60’s without ever managing to do it.
Smileys: Stunt choreography, editing, sound design
Frowneys: Characterisation, score
Ford v Ferrari is just good ol’ fun, with enough slower moments to grab a beer without missing anything important.