I never thought the Germans ( not known for their humor) could pull this off~ a touching comedy that will elicit raucous laughter and a few slow tears, plus keep you in your seat for two hours and forty minutes.
Forty-one- year -old director and screenwriter, Maren Ade deserves an Oscar in the foreign film category. She admits that she attempted to edit, but felt all scenes offered insight and she kept them all in. I felt that the first twenty minutes were tortuous, but I see now that viewers were forced to see the father’s antics as his daughter would see them.
My warning is “Don’t give up!” : This film is so worth three hours of your life. Think of it as having a life coach, who subtlely shows you the inside track to happiness. I, who seldom cry anymore and never laugh out loud, was dabbing at my eyes and laughing uncontrollably. My husband and friend were explosive.
“Toni Erdman” is offbeat and shocking, ( three people walked out ); yet, it is like a good philosophy class. It forces you to think about what is important. This film makes the most of Whitney’s song, ” The Greatest Love Of All” . I hope there is a sequel that hones in on a mother’s love for her child.
A Bulgarian monster that young children flock to is our co-star, the Austrian Peter Simonisckek. Simonisckek is seventy, a tad old to be a helicopter parent ; but his daughter Ines, our star, is on the wrong track to happiness. Neither have time to dally.
Sandra Huller could not be better as the restrained out-sourcing consultant caught in the world of high-powered international business. She is intense in a quiet way. While never in the moment, Ines thinks she is a step ahead. Always on her cell even as the Birthday candles are flaming on her grandmother’s cake, Ines is not moved when her father announces that he has hired a substitute daughter.
As Dad stalks her at the airport, shows up for her business lunches, and generally becomes the constant, disheveled irritant, Ines soldiers on with only occasional outbursts. Dad’s rude, annoying, and invasive love does not cause Ines to work less. As he finds creative ways to take care of benign neglect, we come to see that he is saving his daughter from the worst job in the history of cinema.
Irony sits next to embarrassment. Ines’s personal assistant is cornered by Dad who says, ” Tell the client what he wants …bet my daughter is good at that!” Ines still suffers in her uptight, efficient way. Gender workplace culture has her assisting the boss’s wife in her shopping forays.
Dad continues to make jokes, and is rarely rebuked. When a month off the job is suggested, Dad remarks of seeing real fear in his daughter’s eyes. “Are you at least a little happy?” is thrown to the wind as Ines bemoans a bad, spa massage. “100 euros to be petted!”
We know Ines loves her insane father. She feels for his loss of his dog, Willi. “Why didn’t you call me?” Yet, she is wound tightly and can be self-protectively cold: ” Even if I wanted to jump out the window, you and your cheese grater (partial birthday present) would not be the combination to stop me.” Parent/child relationships are fraught with value pressures, and screenwriter Ade lets us see how they are worth more than the five to six million euros deals. When her boss lauds her with ” You’re an animal, Ines!” , we get the satire on corporate business practices.
“Toni Erdman” will shock some viewers. Ines’ father tries to participate in partying with his daughter, but ends up crying without judging. Some drugs, and lots of nudity, and a sperm-icing shocker are “out there”. When Dad handcuffs Ines to his wrist, we see her blithely incorporating him into her project. In some ways “the apple does not fall far from the tree”.
Enjoy the ” nice encounters” with apples, toilets, and traditional egg decorations, but the best scenes are when Ines sings Whitney and when she tries to disrobe. I hear that an American version of this film is in the works, and that Jack Nicholson will come out of retirement to take the role of Dad. He will have to lose his ” snark” to be as good as Simonisckek. Learn to love yourself by seeing this German wild wonder, and give Maren Ade and Sandra Huller their just due.