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DVD Review: Toni Erdmann

April 18, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Ines Conradi (Sandra Hüller) is a workaholic, who doesn’t really have much time to spend with her practical joking father Winfried (Peter Simonischek) in Germany.  So Winfried travels to Bucharest, where his daughter is working with a consulting firm that is looking at downsizing the amount of workers in the oil field, and assumes the role of an over the top life coach who goes by the name of Toni Erdmann, in an attempt to reconnect and spend more time with her.

Receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and picking up a plethora of other accolades since it premiered at Cannes last year, Toni Erdmann is easily one of the most praised international releases in recent memory and, even though it has admittedly been a tad overhyped, for the most part the film earns this recognition.

The running time does feel a bit bloated, with some scenes seeming like they could have been pruned back, and the look of the film itself is pretty flat, due to largely pedestrian camerawork that can make it feel a little stagey.  But it’s in the little character moments, including a showstopping Whitney Houston cover and a gleefully awkward naked party, that Toni Erdmann really succeeds.

Director Maren Ade nimbly allows the film to walk an almost nonexistent line between humour and pathos in its shaggy exploration of the touchy and unique relationship between this eccentric father and his more buttoned up daughter, while also subtextually addressing social issues about how women are treated in the workplace, and the ways that corporate culture can rob people of their humanity.

Anchored by a nicely textured performance by Peter Simonischek, who excels at showing the heartache and humanity behind his character’s many goofy actions, Toni Erdmann is an often enjoyable film that offers a lot of small delights along the way, before reaching a heartfelt conclusion.  It’s already set for an English-language remake starring Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig, which I actually do have solid hopes for, but I would highly recommend checking out the original first.

The DVD also includes a commentary track with the two leads Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller joined by producer Janine Jackowski, as well as footage of the Q&A from the AFI Fest.

Toni Erdmann is a Sony Pictures Classics release.  It’s 162 minutes and rated 14A.

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