Published on February 10th, 2017 | by Neil Jordan0
Greetings & Salutations Fellow Movie Fanatics!
Well Now! *over exaggerated sigh of relief* After my first movie review of the year it is a suspicious coincidence as well as a welcome relief, that I have the incredibly good fortune to bring you the review of a movie that is not only good but it’s original, sometimes confusing, weird, downright funny, and German. Hey, sometimes when you are disappointed with a domestic film it’s best to look at a foreign film. That ‘strategy’ applies to any movie viewer in any country I can assure you. Today’s film for your consideration is already making waves and winning awards in Germany, Europe, and around the world. It’s making such a significant fuss that as of February 7th, its confirmed that Jack Nicholson is coming out of self-imposed retirement to portray the lead in an American remake of the movie!
‘Toni Erdmann’ is an Austrian-German dramatic comedy written, directed, and co-produced by Maren Abe. The film stars famed Austrian actor Peter Simonischek as Winfried Conradi (the character was based on the directors father a purported prankster) a divorced music teacher and father whose considered by his family, friends, and students to be a hippie. He has the reputation of being a prankster and is notorious for playing practical jokes. He is estranged from his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller). An ambitious business woman working for a company in Romania. They rarely speak except for family gatherings at which Ines is usually on her phone conducting business and actually spends little time with the family. Her father in particular. The only friendship Winfried has is with his blind and deaf dog. One night, after a family gathering and paying a visit to his mother, Winfried falls asleep in his front yard only to wake up and find that his beloved dog has passed away during the night. Feeling lost and dwelling on the past, he travels to Bucharest where his daughter currently consults for an oil company. He finds the office complex where she is based and waits in the lobby for several hours. Finally, he catches a glimpse of Ines walking through the lobby with several board members of her client’s company and sneaks up behind them wearing sunglasses and his trademarked fake teeth while pretending to read a newspaper. Ines notices but completely ignores Winfried. Despite the failure of his practical joke, Ines contacts her father and invites him to a reception at the American embassy in Bucharest where they have a chance encounter with the CEO of a German oil company Mr. Henneberg with whom Ines has been desperately trying arrange business dealings with. While paying little attention to Ines, ironically Henneberg begins a conversation with Winfried in which he casually and jokingly mentioned that he has hired a replacement daughter because Ines is always so busy. Much to the surprise of both, Henneberg invites Ines and her father to join him and his entourage for drinks at a trendy bar where he continues to brush off Ines but only after sharing Winfried’s joke with his colleagues.
Ines is so absorbed in her work she seems to only tolerate her father’s presence and after a few days, Winfried decides to leave feeling alienated as though he’s getting in the way of his daughter’s life. A few days later, Ines and two of her friends are out having drinks when Winfried appears at the bar. Wearing a wig and his trademark false teeth he chimes in on the conversation between his daughter and her friends and comically introduces himself as ‘Toni Erdmann’ a consultant and life coach. Ines two friends continue to converse with him trying their best not to laugh while Winfried continues to ‘enhance’ his character much to the dismay of Ines.
Meanwhile, Ines day-to-Day work routine becomes more frustrating as she seems to be going nowhere with her career despite her best efforts. Becoming almost amused with her father’s character, Ines decides to play along with the character and even invites ‘Erdmann’ to spend time with her at work and with her friends and later even to a business meeting. Strangely enough, the ‘Erdmann’ character created by her father has become a strange and hilarious means of bonding with her father leading to one misadventure after another in which she decides she no longer cares about her current state of being and proceeds to alienate her boss and her colleagues and a way that’s reminiscent of her father’s ‘prankster tendencies’.
This film did not disappoint. It’s funny, it’s shocking, it’s awkward at some points. Most importantly, it’s original. It flys in the face of routine and redundancy and like many great films implies that in the end, the most important thing is family. When worse comes to worse family might not always get you out of trouble but they will certainly provide the catalyst for an escape from the hum drum of whatever is eating at your life.
‘Toni Erdmann’ has already been nominated for ‘Best Film Of The Year’ by critics in several countries including France and England. It premiered at the Cannes film festival last year in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category of the film festival but the night before its premiere, the judges and critics gave it such praise it was immediately added to the more prestigious ‘Palme d’Or’ category and went on to receive high praise at its premiere. It has already won 20 awards in serval countries with many more awards pending. I’m calling this film 4 out of 5 stars. The film clocks in at 162 minutes. A bit long on the tooth for running time but DO NOT let that discourage you from seeing the film. Do yourself a favor and check out ‘Toni Erdmann’ now and see the original in all it’s hilarious glory. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been confirmed that Jack Nicholson is coming out of retirement to portray the lead in the American remake. This film is totally something you would’ve seen Mr. Nicholson doing early in his career back when he was just getting started as an actor. Even with this in mind someone somewhere along the line could still screw it up.
On behalf of myself and my fellows at ‘Skewed & Reviewed’ allow me to wish you a belated Happy New Year and we’ll see you at the movies.