TIFF 2016 Review: Toni Erdmann a comedic father-daughter fiasco.
Back in May 2016, Toni Erdmann took Cannes by storm and received high praise from critics. The film was purchased by Sony Picture Classics and is now slated to release this December. Luckily, I got to catch the film at a screening at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Toni Erdmann tells the story of Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), a lonely father who spends most of his time pranking people. After a tragic event occurs in Winfried’s life, he visits his daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) to reconnect. He soon learns that Ines life isn’t as perfect as he hopes. He hopes that his practical jokes will bring some much-needed humor into her life.
Toni Erdmann is a weird film that isn’t for everyone but for those who enjoy foreign films this is a must see. The character of Winfried is loosely based on Maren Ade‘s father, and it shows because some of the moments between Ines and his character come off as incredibly genuine. Their bond is the glue that ultimately holds most of the film together. The film’s opening does a great introducing Winfried and his personality to the audience. It makes his character that much easier to accept when he becomes Toni Erdmann later in the film. I think seeing a father represented like this is something that we rarely see in film nowadays.
While many of the reviews out of Cannes have labeled this film as a comedy, I would argue that it’s more of a dramedy. It’s not that there aren’t scenes that are funny because there are several laughs to be had, but they happen with very long gaps in between. There is a scene featuring Ines throwing a party near the end of the film which is downright hilarious. I loved the scene and it just got more and more ridiculous as it went on. I think its interesting because even though the scene was crazy, you can totally understand why it happened. I loved that the film managed to be absurd yet realistic at the same time.
The film has an important message about living life to the fullest and not taking it too seriously. There are plenty of great messages within the film about having fun and finding humor in everyday life. Ines is someone who is young and is so wrapped up in her company. She gets upset easily and always seems stressed. Her father is the complete opposite, but that works well to balance their personalities. The phrase the older, the wiser can definitely be applied to this story.
Even though I enjoyed most of the film, the 162-minute run-time does hurt it. While I didn’t think it is as drawn out as say American Honey, you do feel the length especially during the middle section of the film. The middle of the story mostly focuses on Ines and how she is unhappy with her life and her job. There is a lot of character development with Ines, but there were too many scenes that felt drawn out. There was also an odd sexual scene between Ines and her co-worker Tim. I don’t know why this scene was even in the film at all. It was completely pointless and felt entirely out of place.
Maren Ade did a great job with the direction and also writing. I felt there was a lot of moments that could have come off as infantile like many comedies nowadays, but Ade managed to make sure that never happened. This was definitely a film that is geared towards a mature adult audience, and I appreciated that. This father/daughter relationship story is much different than anything you would see in an American film. It is refreshing to see this type of storyline without it being so cliched and predictable.
In the end, Toni Edermann is a smart and mature father-daughter story. The performances by Simonischek and Hüller are terrific and their chemistry is magical. While I believe that the film will definitely play better in foreign markets rather than in the US, I still think there is a lot of great things to take away from it as a whole. It showcases adult comedy being handled in a mature way while also managing to be heartfelt and unique. The bloated run-time hurts the film quite a bit as it makes the second act feel as though it is this never ending glimpse into Ines boring and momentous life.
At 162-minutes long, there is plenty of good within Edermann but it isn’t as great as it could have been. When the jokes hit, they are hilarious but they feel too few and far between. The messages are great but it takes too long to get there. I applaud this filmmaker for making a film like this because it’s slowly becoming a type of film that we rarely see anymore especially with humor being a big part of it. If you are a fan of foreign films and aren’t afraid of the almost three hours run-time, Toni Edermann is definitely worth checking out even if it does at times drag on at times. The good definitely outweighs the bad with this one and I will definitely be adding Maren Ade to my list of directors to keep an eye out for in the near future.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Toni Edermann is a 7 out of 10.