Ines Conradi is a successful businesswoman currently stationed in Bucharest but poised for promotion and transfer to Singapore when this next deal goes well. Winfried Conradi is her father, a lonely man, socially handicapped and prone to the dumbest, most trying “pranks” on the planet. There is no such person as Toni Erdmann. Toni Erdmann is just what Winfriend calls himself when he’s wearing ludicrous false teeth and an even worse wig, which is his go-to costume for “pranking.” His pranks, by the way, consist mainly of just showing up and being this weird alternate personality. He more or less stalks his daughter and endangers her career by showing up at her office and various work functions. If he was your father, you’d either die of embarrassment, or you’d kill him. No two people should survive a relationship like this.
Nothing happens in Toni Erdmann. It’s dull as shit. It’s 2h40min of fumbling through “comedy” that didn’t even induce me to crack a half-smile. What am I missing? This film has been a hit at festivals, including Cannes and TIFF, and was just nominated for a Golden Globe (best foreign film). But I didn’t get it. Sure Ines needed some unbuttoning, poor corporate stick i the mud that she’d become, but I don’t see the humour in a father constantly humiliating his daughter. I didn’t get the public nudity, or the unironic belting out of a Whitney Houston song. The whole thing missed me completely. What the father accomplishes, to my eyes, is not the unburdening of his daughter but rather her undoing – some of her choices seem unhinged and nervous-breakdownish, especially since they’re so often done at work or in front of colleagues. And it feels anti-feminist to say that because this woman is business-minded she’s also cold and in need of saving.
Toni Erdmann was agony for me, maybe more so because I’d actually been looking forward to it. But it was a chore, one that felt interminable for a time, a long time, a period of time that felt even longer than the nearly-three hour runtime.