It’s fairly reductive to add one film with another and state that would theoretically be the summation of the film. It’s definitely possible to do the same here, but Toni Erdmann does almost everything differently than what a mainstream film would do (and has done) with the same subject matter. Director Maren Ade allows the film to breathe and have a reality within it that doesn’t exist in most films. Co-existence is necessary to survive, not just for the film to work, but for the people inside of it.
Peter Simonischek plays Winfried Conradi as a goofball that, in maturity, is several years younger than his daughter, Ines, played by Sandra Hüller. As these things go, their relationship is strained to say the least. Ines has deep business ties to the company she works for in Bucharest which stretches her thin. Winfried attempts to keep a happy relationship with Ines without either of them being able to connect emotionally. Their lives are in a constant state of tension. Once Winfried’s elderly dog passes away, he takes his word on going to visit his daughter in Budapest. As his time with Ines becomes more strained, he decides to take matters into his own hands with his buck-toothed, shaggy haired alter ego, Toni Erdmann.
If that previous paragraph felt a little long, it’s because this movie’s long as well. At a whopping 162 minutes, Toni Erdmann feels like it’s treading water for a large portion of the film. Within this time, Ade allows the film to grow organically into a sense of reality that helps these characters develop. It’s rare to see a film like this pop up in any film scene. Any film remotely like this only ever succeeds on one plane of existence. With the help of the cast and a fantastic script from Ade herself, Toni Erdmann strikes the line between ridiculous and heartfelt at all times.
A shout-out to Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller for the commitment to the script here. Without the acting, this film would not work anywhere near as well as it does. I won’t bring up any specifically great moments (which there are plenty of), but Ade balances them throughout with brilliant timing. Not having to adhere to the basic three act structure allows Toni Erdmann to explore some incredibly unconventional scenes that the movie has two separate endings that don’t get in the way of each other.
Toni Erdmann may seem like a home run, but those smaller issues do build up. By the time the last fifteen minutes are there, the movie really feels its length. I had to ask myself why these two characters were still mad at each other consistently. By the time the credits roll and The Cure starts playing, it’s hard not to feel something. After sitting with the lovable rapport between Father and Daughter, there’s no resisting the movie. I’d say I remember when we had movies like this. I can’t say I recall them.
- Incredible performances by Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller
- Maren Ade's direction and script are understated yet suit this outrageous film perfectly
- Tone and pacing create the best kind of balance for this comedy/drama
- Length is at least 30 minutes too long
- I really can't handle things with any type of nail