TIFF 2016 Review: “Toni Erdmann’ is a Bizarre Film
Toni Erdmann received so much buzz from Cannes for how funny and how loved it was by audiences. I gave the film a shot and frankly, it was a very odd experience. It is a foreign film from Germany which happens to be a comedy. This is an interesting thing to see because there aren’t many comedies that I’ve seen from Germany, so it was an experience. The film is about Ines (Sandra Hüller) and her father, Winifried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), who after suffering a loss, comes to surprise his daughter in Romania. Winifried is in no way a serious man and just uses his time and energy to play pranks and make people laugh. Ines is the opposite in every way. She is a perfectionist professional workaholic. She doesn’t have the time nor wants his antics when he surprises her in Romania.
Ines attempts to entertain her father while still taking care of her business and relationships. Winifried becomes tiresome for Ines and puts a few of her work projects in danger. Ines finally gets rid of him and she feels she can relax with her friends when suddenly, her father shows dressed in a wig and suit calling himself Toni Erdmann. Toni ends up following Ines around to her various events such as dinner with her friends, at her job, etc. It was incredibly strange and very awkward for the majority of the encounters.
The film is not your typical father/ daughter relationship film but does touch upon some of the common themes that plague those relationships. While the film is praised as incredibly funny during its run in Cannes, I feel that it will play much better to a foreign audience. The humor will hit much better, and the awkward nature of the story and characters will be more appreciated. The film is funny but not funny enough to fill the overly bloated runtime, rivaling American Honey for the longest film at TIFF. The performances by the two main actors are pretty genuine, and they have great chemistry together. They are believable, emotional and genuine but not enough to carry the film for the runtime.
If the film were shortened down by about a half hour to forty-five minutes, it would prove much more effective and play to an American audience with much more success. The film has heart and humor with a relatable character study but doesn’t have enough oomph to carry it through.