MOVIE: TONI ERDMANN
STARRING: PETER SIMONISCHEK; SANDRA HULLER; LUCY RUSSELL; VLAD IVANOV
DIRECTED BY: MAREN ADE
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Toni Erdmann is the funniest movie of the year and nobody in going to see it. At least stateside they won't see it. The new German drama/comedy from Maren Ade has a limited release in this equally serious and hilarious film about the relationship between a daughter and her father's attempt to rekindle their close friendship by his crashing her very important business trip. It makes for surprises aplenty, with each scene keeping the audience on their toes in this smart, sensitive and slapstick film.
Peter Simonischek stars as Winfried Conradi, who we first see with his face painted like a clown ala The Dark Knight's joker and ends it in one of the weirdest ceremonial costumes from Budapest. In between, he is a free going character, wearing disguises to not embarrass his daughter in front of her business friends. His efforts are to make sure he sucks all the fun one can have out of life and connect to his daughter- Ines Conradi (Sandra Huller) after the passing of his friendly dog. For Ines, business and work are the most important thing in life, dealing with the contracts of a large oil company and the sexist males who seem to value their work over hers.
Director Maren Ade (Everyone Else) makes Toni Erdmann (the title comes from the name Winfried introduces himself with) a slow burning process of humor and uncomfortable positions. It feels as close to real life as possible as any grown adult that had their father following them around would have feelins of discomfort. The performances from Huller and Simonischek are instant classics, including one of the most memorable movie moments of 2016, when Ines sings Whitney Houston's “Greatest Love of All” at a family party that Winfried invited himself to. At a running time of almost three hours, the entire trip feels like a complete journey, that often involves Winfried hovering in the background of fancy parties with his dark wig and fake teeth.
Toni Erdmann is not just all things humor, in fact it is extremely sensitive at its core. The screenplay from Ade manages to wedge all the gentle moments behind the laughs, including a climactic scene that involves Ines and the rest of the cast in their birthday suits, which shows behind her intense focus lies the kindhearted nature her father instilled in her. The easy movies to compare it to would be a movie from earlier this year- The Meddler, but it also has a sense of humor like Father of the Bride or Monty Python. It's an honest display of how our busy lives can damage the love and lives we share with our parents.
There is no debate that Toni Erdmann is one of the more surprising films of the year. The pace and length do get a tad bit wearing, but that is not to say that the audience is not rewarded at the end. They actually do not make enough movies like this today. It's a kind and film that at least tells the important lesson to see humor in life and love the family that you have. Everyone is going to want to have a father like Toni Erdmann and will leave the theater with a big smile on their face. No matter how sad everything else is.
3 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady