Review: The Lighthouse and Jojo Rabbit


We are now in the heat of Oscar season, which means I see at least one movie a weekend. Last weekend I saw two films, which ended up being polar opposites. Here are my thoughts:

The Lighthouse

After making waves with his 2015 horror movie “The Witch” director Robert Eggers returns with a new horror mystery, “The Lighthouse”, which is just as shocking and disturbing as his first. Eggers’ Sophomore outing takes us to the 1890’s to a remote lighthouse island, which is inhabited by two caretakers. The first man is hardened seaman, and veteran lightkeeper, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and the second is the conserved and mysterious timberman, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson). The film follows the two men as they struggle for power over each other while strange incidents begin to circle the island. As the two men go insane together the film asks the question, are the horrors in their heads or is there some malevolent force closing in.

“The Lighthouse” is a brilliantly executed film from top to bottom. The stark, black and white cinematography mirrors the harsh conditions the men face, The sound design speckled with subtle details that add to the suspense of every shot. Above all, the acting of Dafoe and Pattinson carries the film and the power struggle they share is what gives the film some of its best moments. Dafoe is fully embraced as an old sea dog, prodding at Pattinson’s Winslow, cracking jokes one minute and threatening violence the next. Meanwhile, Pattinson is all pent up  rage that boils over in a terrifying tirade that proves Pattinson to be a much better actor than I thought. The two are given unique and well written dialogue that transports the viewer to the time and situation and offers very challenging roles that would seem foolish in the hands of lesser actors. 

Between the haunting imagery and riveting dialogue “The Lighthouse” boasts a very complex plot that challenges the viewer to try (and fail) to understand exactly where the film is headed. When the film isn’t following the two leads hashing out their differences in a small room it is one big acid trip that is truly shocking. While the film has very good dialogue, and I understand it is meant to be ambiguous the exposition of the plot is rather lacking and requires a very sharp mind and possibly some research to fully comprehend. 

“The Lighthouse” is less about the destination and more about the journey, as Eggers expertly crafts a beautiful and terrifying film. Despite it’s vague plot, Dafoe and Pattinson offer Oscar worthy performances in their roles. Standard disclaimer: “The Lighthouse” is a very weird film, in its dialogue, plot, and characters, perhaps the best adjective for this movie is “weird”. This weirdness is bound to alienate a handful of viewers, but if your willing to withstand the horrifying imagery, taxing language, and dark themes, “The Lighthouse” is a twisted ride you won’t soon forget.

Final Score for: “The Lighthouse”

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jojo Rabbit

 Following his hit Marvel movie “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi sets his sights on a unique project. “Jojo Rabbit” is the story of a child, Jojo, growing up in Nazi Germany towards the end of World War II. Jojo is a fanatic Nazi who believes everything the party tells him but is conflicted by his own moral compass. Those morals are only exasperated when he discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa,  in their house. But don’t be fooled; “Jojo Rabbit” is a comedy. Throughout the film Jojo receives questionable advice from an imaginary friend, his fictionalized version of Adolf Hitler, portrayed by Waititi. 

At its base, “Jojo Rabbit” is a comedy and it nails it through and through. The opening scenes of the movie are dominated by a mockery of Adolf Hitler to hilarious effect. While each of the characters including Jojo, Elsa, Scarlett Johansson’s Rosie, and Sam Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf all have funny moments the stand out comic is Archie Yates who plays Jojo’s best friend, Yorki. But “Jojo Rabbit” is about much more than oddball humor and after an hour of well timed comedy the film wisely turns to more serious subjects. 

As Jojo begins to interrogate Elsa he begins to battle with the morality of his actions, the Nazi Parties, and the war itself. The second half of the film focuses on the dynamic between Jojo and Elsa and shines a spotlight on the legitimate horror of the war as it closes in on Jojo. His journey and that of his peers has clear connections to the children of today and the movie shows it has a very intellectual side that is touching and cognizant of the current times. It’s in these moments that “Jojo Rabbit” separates itself from other comedies and in my eyes makes itself an Oscar contender.

“Jojo Rabbit” is a movie that will surprise you with how funny and touching it is. Taika Waititi once again proves that he can make almost anything funny but he also shows that he has a very keen eye for plot and character development, which drives the film. In the end “Jojo Rabbit” strikes the perfect balance between comedy, drama, and tragedy to make a heartfelt film that carries with it important themes and extreme relevance. Aside from things coming from pre existing franchises like Marvel, “Jojo Rabbit” has been my favorite film of the year so far. 

Final Score for: “Jojo Rabbit”

4.5 out of 5 Stars