Toni Erdmann (2016)

By Livia Peterson

Prior to the review, please allow me to reiterate the following fact: Get over the subtitle phobia! Get over the subtitle phobia! Get over the subtitle phobia! You are certainly missing out on some brilliant foreign language films here.
 
The runtime may or may not frighten you. Three hours of reading subtitles! I reassure you – some English is spoken yet the component distracted me. Anyway, onward…
 
The father-daughter dynamic is rarely examined in the motion pictures. Just leave it to the genius Maren Ade to perfectly combine drama and comedy. Three hours…two hours and forty two minutes to be exact. Ignore the runtime and relish the fact there is no American remake of the film, starring Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson yet. Thank god!
 
The interfering father Winfried Conradi (the phenomenally hilarious Peter Simonischek) disguises himself as the life coach Toni Erdmann (hence the title) to reconnect with the workaholic daughter Ines Conradi (the utterly exquisite Sandra Huller) in Bucharest, Romania during the business trip.
 
Whereas the mother-daughter dynamic is usually depicted stereotypically, the father-daughter relationships are complicated and sometimes, problematic. Mothers worry and so do fathers – but they tend to hide their feelings. Ade flawlessly nails the chemistry, the banter, and the interconnection among the characters (including the colleagues).
 
“Toni Erdmann” allows Simonischek to play with his character and hence, you may simultaneously feel many emotions – the facial expressions, alone, desired me to hug him if I could. Ines insists to remain alone; however, Winfried allows various layers to reveal themselves – slowly, but surely. Ines and Winfried are completely fleshed out and thus, the nearly three hour runtime. You may resonate with one or the other, depending on your taste.
 
The profound rumination is beneath the innovative jokes, especially during the nude birthday celebration sequence (the best scene during the film). Nonetheless, “Toni Erdmann” is extremely relevant in terms of attempting to find balance between work and family. I am able to attest that it is difficult to juggle everything at once. The balance is there, but accommodating the sweet spot is demanding. You witness Ines and Winfried discovering the sweet spot from start to finish. Ade does not hold back with the endearing and tricky moments – raw and beautiful as it is.
 
Huller and Simonischek complete “Toni Erdmann”. I imagine Wiig and Nicholson producing the mess out of the remake and – eliminating the nude party scene. Please leave “Toni Erdmann” as it is because the American audiences must see the German tour-de-force first and foremost. A

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