German Film Week 2017
Cannes 2016 – official selection competition; OSCARS 2017, GOLDEN GLOBES 2017: nominated as best non-English speaking film; Best European Film 2016.
„… a work of great beauty, great feeling and great cinema.“ The New York Times
Winfried doesn't see much of his working daughter Ines. The suddenly student-less music teacher decides to surprise her with a visit after the death of his old dog. It's an awkward move because serious career woman Ines is working on an important project as a corporate strategist in Bucharest. The geographical change doesn't help the two to see eye to eye any better. Practical joker Winfried loves to annoy his daughter with corny pranks. What's worse are his little jabs at her routine lifestyle of long meetings, hotel bars and performance reports.
Father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to return home to Germany. Enter dazzling “Toni Erdmann”: Winfried's smooth-talking alter ego. Disguised in a tacky suit, weird wig and even weirder fake teeth, Toni barges into Ines' professional life, claiming to be her CEO's life coach. Wilder and bolder than Winfried, Toni doesn't hold back, and Ines meets the challenge. The harder they push, the closer they become. In all the madness, Ines begins to understand that her eccentric father might deserve some place in her life after all.
Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH
The surprise of Toni Erdmann is not just its comedy – those laugh-out-loud moments that display its genius, those scenes that build up to an emotional peak and reveal an aspect of its remarkable character study – but also the realization that this comedy, when seen as a whole, is in fact a tragedy, as most good comedies are, one whose effect is devastating in its being larger than life. In a stretch of close to three hours, it depicts a father (Peter Simonischek), a retired music teacher, and his daughter (Sandra Hüller), a workaholic business consultant, as they try to deal with their being together in a foreign country, in Romania, where she works on an outsourcing project in the oil industry.
It's difficult to guess where it's going, and midway through one just gives up wanting to know and is rewarded by the sheer force of its comic simplicity, by the wisdom it imparts in examining a father-daughter relationship then turning it inside out, shaking it, and letting the pieces fall. It hardly feels tedious because of the precision of action, of the way it seems to flow freely and indifferently – showing how much they have grown apart and how they can't be together without finding themselves in a fucked-up situation – and then the film makes strange, vivid turns that only pull them closer to each other. Those "big" moments in the second act – the appearance of the Toni Erdmann persona with his fake teeth and funny wig, the singing of "The Greatest Love of All" to a bunch of strangers, the naked party and how it leads to quite possibly the most moving embrace in cinema in recent history – hardly feel inserted for emphasis. The film's small moments are as striking as the big ones, and one can only marvel at the brilliance of its narrative design. There is so much to see and feel in Toni Erdmann, and it won't be weird to find oneself crying over the seeming plainness of it.
Words fail to describe the magic of Toni Erdmann. The synopsis, such as it is, involves an inveterate prankster (Peter Simonischek) taking on a really strange alter ego while visiting his workaholic daughter (Sandra Hüller). In a ridiculous wig and fake teeth, our prankster hero barrels through the life of his daughter, generally being a nuisance but somehow managing to impart some sort of valuable lesson. Thousands of words could be written about what this film is about, but it will never really come close to being accurate. It is nearly three hours long, and it spends its time exploring gender politics and modern relationships and cultural attitudes and the current economic climate. It is strange and often quite alien, but it is also one of the most touching, emotional films that one will ever see.
In a way, the film is just the perfect depiction of the relationship between father and child, each side taken to a comedic extreme. The titular Toni Erdmann is the living manifestation of the dad joke: slightly embarrassing and weirdly endearing at the same time. His daughter Ines perfectly represents the generational pressure to succeed at a certain age. Both characters are deeply flawed in ways that are painfully relatable, regardless of one’s age or place in life. This relationship just feels so lived-in: one gets the sense that Ines has been dealing with this kind of thing her whole life, and has built a life around being away from all of it. But her dad shows and insists on somehow being part of her life, and she hates it and appreciates it all at the same. It’s sad and beautiful and altogether brilliant.
It would not be hyperbole to call Toni Erdmann a masterpiece. Its dry, deadpan sense of humor meticulously examines the way we live now, crossing borders and breaking boundaries as it studies the specifics of this one particular relationship and the circumstances surrounding it. The world is becoming increasingly globalized and attitudes over various issues are shifting and everything just seem to be getting increasingly complex. But at its heart, there are parents and children, and bonds were not chosen but are there all the same.