Toni Erdmann got rave reviews when it was released on the big screen and I was expecting great things from this German-Austrian co-production. However, I was ultimately left disappointed by writer-director Maren Ade’s flaccid family farce. It was good as far as it went, but at nearly three hours it lacks the requisite drive to justify it’s rather grand running time. I’m usually up for some ponderous Euro-flavoured flicks, but this Oscar and Bafta nominated effort really failed to hit the spot for me.
Peter Simonischek is Winfried Conradi, a practical joker estranged from his stressed-out businesswoman daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller). A failed attempt to reconnect leads him don false teeth and wig and take on the persona of a life coach called Toni Erdmann. Winifred then works to bring fun back into Ines’ life, and during the course of this they both learn some interesting lessons.
You can’t fault Toni Erdmann on a performance level and both Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller handle the comedy and drama well. However, that’s where the film doesn’t really gel. Tonally it doesn’t connect, failing to work as on off-beat comedy and a family drama. It really takes a left turn in the last act, but it just goes a bit too far into the surreal for comfort. In a strange way I can see why Jack Nicholson is mulling coming out of retirement for a remake – the concept is great, but the execution lets it down.
A disappointment on all fronts except acting, Toni Erdmann really isn’t worth three hours of your time. This might have worked as a two hour film, but poor editing decisions mean this is a one and done type of viewing experience. I’ve seen worse, but I was expecting a whole lot better.