Toni Erdmann

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 toni-erdmann-5-rcm0x1920ujust 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.

 

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25 thoughts on “Toni Erdmann

  1. Liz A.

    Yeah, that sounds awful. As someone who doesn’t do humiliation well (even the humiliation of others), I don’t think I could stomach this. And if I had a family member that repeatedly… Yeah, they wouldn’t be in my life any longer. Can you say “restraining order”?

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, I felt like I would have cut him off years ago because he just had no concept of boundaries or inappropriateness. It’s one thing to have that “black sheep” family member, but when he follows you to another country to pop up uninvited, and introduces himself to your friends, coworkers, and superiors IN CHARACTER…I just couldn’t. Couldn’t find the humour in it at all. And it makes me feel like a bum since so many others enjoy it!

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    1. Jay Post author

      I have a hard time allowing myself to do that. And – you can ask Matt – for at least 130 minutes I kept thinking – surely this is going to get better?

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  2. reocochran

    I hate it when this happens! I have walked out of a few movies and quit reading several books due to boredom or bad plot. Some grossness has discouraged me, too.
    Jay, thanks for your honesty!
    Happy New Year and hope it brings a fascinating year in! 🙂 ❤

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      1. reocochran

        Thanks for the retuned wish. You’re welcome, Jay!
        This film sounded very odd. I looked up a few other reviews which varied from awful to very good. I trust and have known you longer than any other movie blog (team!)

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      2. Jay Post author

        Yes, I think most reviews are quite positive so I feel like either I was just being a grump or I totally missed something.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes. I thought it was. But for contrast, rotten tomatoes has it at a 92%!!
      I have my friend watching it tonight so he’ll let me know how far off the mark I am. Although he tends not to like long-for-no-reason movies, so that’s already a strike.

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  4. Paul. Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker

    Could be a “marmite” film this one as it has, as you say, received a decent critical response. Then again, I rarely follow was press reviews or awards say are good films as they can often be skewed. I prefer to make up my own mind as you so admirably do in your very honest review. Good work!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, I feel self-conscious about being in the minority here.
      It’s possible that it loses something in the translation, but the TIFF audience loved it by all accounts, and they were condemned to subtitles too!

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  5. Courtney Small

    I loved this film. I was thoroughly entertained despite its overly long running time (by comedy standards). To me, both Ines and Winfried learn a lot from each other over the course of the film. Ines is clearly not happy with her role at the company, constantly being talked down to by her boss and colleagues. Winfried on the other hand, always uses comedy to distance himself from the true responsibilities of life. One of my favourite moments occurs at the club when Winfried and Ines are at the club and her actions force him to take an honest look at her pain, and detest for him, for the first time in a long while. Yes, Winfried is an ass a good portion of the film, but I enjoyed the awkward journey that both he and Ines take toward re-establishing some semblance of a father-daughter bond.

    I completely see where you are coming from though. While the film played very well at my screening during TIFF, the film is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

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  6. Robin Write

    I don’t share the same negative responses from this review, but it is so refreshing to hear a voice saying that the movie is not the marvel everyone seems to be claiming. I have seen it, and this review makes perfect sense. I liked it a hell of a lot more than you did, but it certainly disappointed me in some respects given the critical hype. And yes, too long.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I’m glad to hear from people who liked it!
      And is it just me, or are lots of films very long lately? I just saw Fences, and Manchester By The Sea, and both were well over 2 hours. Is this a new trend?

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  8. Henry Chamberlain

    I can see your points, Jay. But I have to politely disagree in the fun spirit of movie reviewing. I really think it’s a European sense of humor that can conflict with a typical American sensibility. This film is quite okay with defying logic since it is artifice, not real life, at the end of the day. Frankly, I think the American remake in the works could be dreadful as it will knock the delicate balance at play in this farce. That what this is, it’s a brilliant farce.

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  9. CineMuseFilms

    I love the honesty and directness of your reviews Jay; there is nothing vague about “dull as shit” and “agony for me”. As you might guess, I felt quite differently. This is one of the most original European comedies of the year; its a slow-burner, not much happens, but its wonderful to watch the subtle shifts in the father-daughter bond that is being portrayed. Quirkly, insightful, and charming are my three concluding adjectives.

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