Movie Reviews

What to See this Weekend: Reviews for “Harriet,” “Motherless Brooklyn” & “Jojo Rabbit”

There’s a little something-for-everyone in theaters this weekend, including two interesting takes on history. If you’re wondering which film to throw your money at, I’ve seen all three and can help.

Harriet is the first feature-length film about Harriet Tubman and tells the familiar story of her life and work the Underground Railroad. It features a lesser known fact that Tubman suffered a head-injury in her youth and was left with seizures, narcolepsy and visions she thought were messages from God. Harriet the film asserts that she used these visions to aid in her rescues, which adds a magical new layer to her story. Tubman is played by Cynthia Erivo, who carries this character with all the necessary weight. She also uses her soaring voice, bringing a surprising but pleasant musical aspect to Harriet. My only complaint is with the writing, which leans on lengthy monologues. The Harriet Tubman in this movie is prone to giving long speeches, often when people are in hot pursuit of her. It detracts from the authenticity of Harriet but still leaves an excellent history lesson for young (it’s rated PG-13) and old alike. B

Edward Norton takes a second shot at directing (he did Keeping the Faith in 2000) with Motherless Brooklyn, based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem. Norton plays a Private Investigator who searches for those who murdered his friend and mentor (played by Bruce Willis). This PI also suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, which brings new depth to an otherwise standard noir tale. Norton clearly has an eye for cinematography with his sepia-toned 1950’s New York, but Motherless Brooklyn starts to drag in the third act and details become increasingly muddy. Extra points for the soundtrack though, which includes jazz classics by Thelonius Monk and Charlie Park, as well as new music from Radiohead’s Thom York. B-

Jojo Rabbit is about a young German (Roman Griffin Davis) who’s goal in life is to be the best little Nazi he can be. Jojo even attends a Nazi day-camp, where he’s taught by buffoonish members of the Third Reich (Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson) and his imaginary friend is a goofy, child’s version of Hitler (played by director Taika Waititi). His world is turned upside-down when he learns his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. Jojo Rabbit is a comedy (think a mash-up of Blazing Saddles and 1979’s The Tin Drum, with a Wes Anderson soundtrack) about one of the worst atrocities in our history, and the laughs occasionally feel out of place. It eventually drops the levity and shows Jojo the true horrors of war though, which is when Jojo Rabbit is at it’s best. It’s also rated PG-13 and an opportunity for younger audiences to connect with this important moment in history. (A)

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