Toni Erdmann (2016)
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I've tried to understand why this excessive, criminally long and utterly weird (not funny) film, that at its core tells a rather generic and ordinary story of a father and his daughter has been so blatantly fawned over by many a top critic but I just can't see or understand why Maren Ade's tale has become the so-called classic it's been labelled with.
Over 160 minutes of runtime we the audience get the "privilege" of following around the odd Winfried Conradi whose relationship with his business driven daughter Ines leads him to take up a persona of Toni Erdmann, a self-professed life coach that starts to follow Ines around to become a part of her working life. It's a story with potential but told as dryly and blandly as Ade tells it, this ends up being a rare foreign film where you just can't wait to see a more tightly structured and funny Hollywood remake.
There's nothing wrong with Peter Simonischek or Sandra Hüller's central performances as father and daughter duo Winfried and Ines and the two actors are both game to partake in some odd scenarios, from cupcake antics, odd birthday parties to awkward nights out with the girls, but Toni Erdmann has surely hoodwinked people into thinking strange and bizarre is in fact genius at work and while some who like their films cut from the bizarre corner of filmmaking will lap up Toni Erdmann's fondness for the odd, there will be other viewers such as me you don't buy into what Erdmann is selling us.
It will be interesting to see how Hollywood tackles the stories untypical nature, but there's enough love flowing for the film around the place that acting legend Jack Nicholson has shunned his retirement plans to appear in the remake as the titular Erdmann while Girls superstar Lena Denham is attached to help work on the script, showcasing that Erdmann has its large portion of fans and few detractors.
Final Say –
Quite clearly Toni Erdmann wasn't for me and I understand that I will be one of only a few who didn't find this slow, charmless and cold experience that's trying to be an odd yet touching tale of a father and daughter, a sight for sore eyes.
For those that get on board the journey of Winfried and his quest to reconnect to his daughter, Toni Erdman will be near 3 hours' worth of quality dramatics with laugh out loud oddness, for the other bewildered few, Toni Erdman is one of last year's most unduly praised experiences.
1 cupcake out of 5
Conradi is in almost every scene, and he is a grotesque, ill-favored old man who treats people as if they were pawns in some grand comedy he's living. His main target is his daughter, a hard-working executive stationed in Bucharest (most of the film was shot in Romania). He treats no one with respect, especially not her, and he has no dignity.
Almost every scene would benefit from being shortened, some by up to half. Whole scenes (e.g., the handcuffing, the sperm-splattered pastries) could have been cut without losing any of the point-- which by the way, is anything but fresh territory. Zorba the Greek leapt to mind as a similarly themed movie. In two words: enjoy life. Zorba, however, is a charming character. Mr. Conradi/Toni Erdmann is not.
The multiple-award-winning actress Sandra Huller holds the film together, and the scene, toward the end, when she belts out Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All," is a triumph of performance over production. That's pretty much it (and I'm not forgetting her prolonged nude scene). Without her presence, I would have walked out. This is a grossly over-rated film, and a painfully over-long one.
The main theme is loneliness. A father realizes that his daughter is not happy even though she has a great career and pretends to be fine. So he tries to bring joy back in her life.
The acting is brilliant both Toni and Ines are as authentic as possible. Some scenes were so funny that i basically cried tears of joy. Especially the nude party is so ridiculous ... its actually one of best scenes i ever saw in cinema.
This is a great and very unique movie and i want to thank Maren Ade for this piece of art. Imho the best German comedy ever made. 10/10
That being said, this movie makes some very fine and subtle observations, presents them in a funny and entertaining form yet at the same time in a thought-provoking and philosophical way which will make you think about it for a long time. If you're from an academic (german) household you will find lots of similarities in your own family relations.
This movie is not fast-paced - in fact it often has long shots of lonely people and a lot is not said but has to be filled in by the viewer. So if you don't relate to the characters this movie will feel longish for sure. But if you find traces of your own life or that of your friends and relatives you'll be amazed by the subtlety and finesse in which this movie is directed. Although there are some bizarre events, everything which happens in this movie could happen in real life. There are no implausible scenes in this movie! This is an incredible statement given the crazy and bizarre things which happen in this movie. If you wanna know how that could be true, you might wanna watch it.
Missing out on this film is highly recommended.
In this "new global world", the most of the time everybody is so deep into the details of "knowing how to be" because everybody is already like this, that if you take a step back and watch from a different angle you might wonder if anyone still remembers what it is to be a human. To remember the pleasure of feeling secure and loved by the ones that are guaranteed to be the ones that will do so. And finally if you get the right angle, you have to admit that everyone around you looks ridiculously, trying to find the detail in the detail that would make a difference, even if everybody does everything identically and there is obviously nothing else. The game about being a tough global business-woman/man, up to the most disgusting proofs to be the tougher one, is finally just flat and meaningless.
The whole story is wonderful true. The actors are doing a fantastic job making you feel the frustration and discomfort that should be seen and felt by everyone living in such a world. It is not a slow movie ... it is the shortest version of an never-ending slow life with nothing that would make your heart pound for the true meanings.
This movie brought two points to my mind. Einstein defined madness: - Trying the same thing again and again while expecting a different outcome. - Google was build on the simple idea that everybody is searching for something that everybody is already mentioning... Try to type "Apple" in the Google search field
"Toni Erdmann" has a great screenplay. Basically, it tells a father-daughter-story, but every sign of empathy seems to be frozen. Ines Conradi (Sandra Hüller) shows a great performance as she already did in "Amour Fou". She only lives for working and does not care much about family or emotional matters. All that counts is the progress of her career. Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) interprets a loving father who only wants to spend some time with his daughter. As Ines facade cannot be broken, he starts disturbing her perfect world of rules and manners by becoming Toni Erdmann.
The screenplay does not contain many big plot points but convinces the viewer by the development of its great characters and the intelligent and often embarrassing dialogues. The audience is trapped by the society rules of this business world. Consequently, we are feeling with Ines who is more and more irritated by her father – now transformed to Toni Erdmann. He starts to shatter the stability of the system by his strange, unconventional character and jokes. The dialogues with excellent acting are so trenchant that moments of great humor are coming up.
Everybody of the business world looks strangely at Toni Erdmann when he appears but we start thinking about who is weird and crazy in reality. Is it Toni Erdmann as he is not behaving like everybody else would expect of a supposed business man? Or is it this whole community of economists which takes drugs and which feigns emotions? Maybe Eugène Ionesco can help us to find an answer.
The film itself, most of the time taking place in Romania, only rarely shows poor people as one would assume. Most of the time we just hear about the problems of a German enterprise which has to do some outsourcing. In many scenes we can see that Ines does not really care about the people around her. She is just a representative person of the company and keeps distance. Her father, on the other hand, does not care about society rules and is able to communicate in a simple, affective way with the people of this country.
Gradually Ines is influenced by the spirit of life and the philosophy of her father as she gradually throws off her mask. What does it mean to have a life where one does not have any emotional link to his colleagues? What does it mean to see progress only but to forget that man is a social being? Even when Ines is in front of her secret lover and colleague Tim, she is not able to show any emotions.
With Patrick Orth, director Maren Ade creates a light visual style which is ideally coordinated with the actor's play. We are in a world where we cannot foresee what happens next. When Toni Erdmann appears, everything seems to start trembling. The stability of our conformist and capitalistic system is threatened by the presence of only one "strange" character.
How was this movie nominated for Best Foreign Movie? Did watching it cause an existential crisis, or is it that half the dialogue is in English, which must impress the largely Anglophone Academy? Also there are some quirky moments scattered through the movie; about five, making up almost a minute of its length. The rest of the jokes are neither numerous nor worth offering.
How do I know? Because these are the sort of jokes I would make. I would test them out on my cousin or one or two friends in a deadpan fashion. Take the joke the hero does about how his daughter is never there and even when she is, she is on the phone. Therefore, the joke goes, he has hired a young woman to play his daughter and clip his toe nails. My in-house testing -- so to speak -- would yield a result from a grunt (the worst rating, acknowledging it), to a question about how well she clips toe nails (the best rating). This would rate a grunt and so would be abandoned. Only the best rated jokes go into my repertoire. Not so in this movie.
As I indicated, at 70 minutes, this might have made a light, almost Tati-esque movie. At two hours and forty minutes, though, it is so Teutonic in its exhaustive detail that all I can do is marvel at its stultifying length.
Some of the minor characters were even on the good side but some vital plot points were not expressed in a manner that leads the audience to identify with the characters journeys.
I think that it might have had many editing problems and pieces of plot left on the cutting room floor.
As other IMDBers have already mentioned, the expectations were high enough , and I sort of demanded a good film. I cannot say I got that.
The story (which isn't really a story) roughly, is about a woman whose job is basically firing people off of other companies --- and her father who is bizarrely present and around her throughout most of the film , making awkward but somewhat distant jokes , supposedly to help her have a better life.
Toni Erdmann is a bizarre film for sure. Nothing wrong with that, just stating a fact. It's a film that shows us instead of telling us things. Which is respectful, elegant and admirable in a way and that's a plus for Maren Ade.
There are admirable things in Toni Erdmann , but for me there are also big flaws that reduced the overall viewing experience.
The fatal flaw to name, is the starkness and the extreme cold atmosphere of this film and all its characters. For me a film must offer entertainment , in the broad sense. Meaning that a film has to give us a variety of good things that'll "warm us". Good soundtrack , interesting and empathizing characters , a good atmosphere and locations , and of course a solid story that'll surround us and in the end win us with its charm so we'll want to re watch the film after it starts to rust in our memory.
I don't want to watch Toni Erdmann again. There was no charm that won me and so just one preview is enough. I didn't connect with the characters much , not that I don't have common things ,most of us get modern life's problems , and we have common issues with fiction characters who aren't too happy with their life. Its a safe bet. But this doesn't mean you connect with the characters as well.
Toni Erdmann felt very much like you are inside a fridge, sitting in there and viewing stuff in a cold environment. Too cold. Also it runs too long at 2 hours and 40 minutes for the particular story told. For the kind of praise it got , I expected better characters , better dialogues and in the whole a better picture.
The direction in its practical sense of camera placement and movement was mediocre and so was the photography which was pretty basic so don't expect "good pictures".
The admirable things about it, was the good acting, mostly by the father "Toni" but the daughter was modestly good as well in her role. The originality of the film's approach to the father-daughter relationship was another good thing. And lastly the film's themes and questions/problems addressed by the director/scriptwriter Maren Ade. The story had meaning behind it sure, but it was too elegant about those themes (the corporate world vs human values and what matters for modern man vs what should really matter.) These are honorable themes and Maren Ade seems like a decent person to explore and show us a few troubling things in the hope to awaken us, but as a film it was mediocre. Of course that's just my opinion, but I have to say there are some rules in Film making , and mrs Ade neglected a few of them.
PS. I can't believe Hollywood is thinking of a remake. I really hope they make a few (A LOT) of adjustments to the story, maybe Kristen Wiig can save it.
Is not it easier, to take advantage of the few free moments to prepare different things? I think that anyone who lives in such situations would be very angry. Work or working life is such a very important part of people's lives that it can occupy much more than a third of your life.
The amount of trouble I could have gotten her daughter, I thought was too much. And seeing all the companions laughing at the father, I felt sorry for her.
The film has become long, long. I could have put more sequences of more moments of the negotiation, the truth I do not know if they needed? See how the woman tells the father, who knew he was not the ambassador, unfortunate.
The actors are very good, too bad that the wrong way.
The photograph seems very ugly, there were moments that I thought to put on sunglasses.
The address, I have already commented, simple and without direction, simple planes, and does not know that it is long.
The case is that the movie I believe it, I think I'm watching a story, but I find everything so disgusting, it does not help me.
See how the woman tells the father, who knew he was not the ambassador, unfortunate.
That if I must say that the part of the final party, naked, is well thought out. The character of the woman is doing very well, not admitting that she has not had time to prepare and the excuse is nudity, but it would be as simple as asking for a minute, putting on a robe and then getting dressed, she is at home .
The main idea could be elevated into an interesting story not necessarily by a very professional screenplay writer, but even middle. This movie is a false and defective combination of Hollywood films' and French films' philosophy. That is, at intervals the tone switches between those two ideas.
An uber unfunny old dude monkeying around in a desperate --but futile! -- attempt at qualifying this waste of film for the comedy genre ...
The script is so stupid that you can see the actors being ashamed of reciting the lines while trying hard not to fall asleep.
And the high marks (yup, IMDb misled me AGAIN!) that this retarded production got can't but be a clear sign that humans are losing their minds, it MUST be something in the air ...
I didn't. Nor did I find anything to laugh at. For nearly three hours.
I have never, EVER checked my watch so much while watching a film: regularly checking, counting down the time and thinking, for instance, "It's been an hour, now. Surely something funny has to happen soon?". But no. Unless you consider someone wearing a wig and false teeth hilarious (and for some reason plenty of people do) then there's not much else in here. Oh, and spunk-topped petit fours. Apparently, these are quite a crowd pleaser.
This is one overlong, dreary and tedious film, and I didn't even smile once. The acting is blank, the script sounds as if it were improvised by performers who aren't actually very good at improvising. There is something creepy about the father's stalking of his own daughter, especially when he sneaks into her conveniently unlocked flat and, on hearing her coming, decides to hide in the cupboard.
Hilarious. I can only imagine.
Awful, awful, awful film. I'm so glad it lost out at the Oscars, and I cannot even think what people see in it.
What these two films have in common is a know-it-all attitude on the part of the auteur (Ms. Maren Ade for "Toni" while Terry Southern authored "Magic Christian", directed by British journeyman hack Joe McGrath), providing enough satire of our modern society to cause the cognoscenti who make up the ranks of film critics & festival programmers to chuckle. I wasn't chuckling, but endlessly groaning.
In fact, Peter Simonischek's "embarrassing prankster daddy" performance reminded me not of one of Sellers' over-the-top characters but rather a generic adaptation of Jerry Lewis's various horrible novelty dentures mockery of "guys with funny teeth". Like Mickey Rooney's Japanese stereotype role in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (perhaps Blake Edwards' only misstep in that classic production), we can now cringe at these poor choices by great comedians. But I suppose Maren and the sycophants who have raised this "Toni" to a classic contemporary film status, even to be adapted as a Hollywood remake for Jack Nicholson to overact in, all follow the tradition of European genuflection to the great Jerry.
For me, even more disconcerting was Peter's odd similarity to Giancarlo Giannini, as if the brilliant Italian actor had overdosed on pasta to put on heft for this showcase role. But alas, Simonischek is no Giannini, nor can Giannini hold a candle to his immediate forbears in the Italian comedy firmament: Manfredi, Tognazzi and Sordi being my favorites, two of whom I was fortunate enough to interview back in my film journalist days of the '80s. So even had Maren cast GG, this film would likely have still self-destructed.
Slogging it out to the bitter end, even more annoying was the glib and mindless ending Ade falls back on to round out her saga. Daddy Winifried and his alter ego Toni Erdmann are painfully hanging around our poor daughter heroine's neck like an albatross, or carrying Bill Murray's also annoying (but oh so successful with the fans) Bob to Richard Dreyfuss in ""What About Bob?" (the epitome of the comedy formula Ade is recycling, literally as old as the Monty Woooley "The Man Who Came to Dinner" play and film adaptation) to its extreme. He's supposed to be teaching his kid, in a ham-fisted way, that old lesson of "live, live, live", a theme I enjoyed endlessly back in the '60s watching films that became increasingly offbeat, perhaps reaching an apotheosis in "Harold and Maude". But what does Ade finish up with?
She has daughter Ines (played by Sandra Huller) quit her thankless and straw man-hateful for the audience job as hatchet man/consultant to move to China and work as a consultant for McKinsey & Co.! Other than namedropping, this hardly strikes me as a Flower Power generation dropping out and starting anew but is clearly a cynical ending as misanthropic as the world view of dear departed Terry Southern.
Casting Huller, soon to be impersonated by Kristen Wiig, as typical a Hollywoodization as transforming Naomi Rapace into Rooney Mara, was yet another roadblock to enjoying or even tolerating this movie. From first sight, she hit me as if some conglomeration of Yank stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Claire Danes had been whupped by the ugly stick. Her walk- through performance was one-note (to be charitable), and the gimmicky full-nudity scene accorded her in the last couple of reels (more suitable to a Benny Hill sketch or other sort of Joe McGrath goonish soft-core comedy, "The Magic Christian" helmer having also directed the likes of "Girls Come First" and "I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight") was quite off-putting. Getting back to the Giannini connection in my wandering mind, had Lina Wertmuller in her '70s prime directed something on the order of "Toni Erdmann", that didactic director would at least have let the viewers ogle a beauty like Mariangela Melato, thank you very much.