When his beloved dog dies, aging hippy piano teacher Winfried (Peter Simonischek) decides to pay his estranged 30-something daughter, corporate high-flyer Ines (Sandra Hüller), an impromptu visit in an attempt to build bridges and reconnect with her. When things don’t go according to plan, the pair part on bad terms, only for Winfried to reappear in a bad wig and poorly fitting false teeth as his alternate persona Toni Erdmann, invading and disrupting the uptight Ines’ carefully ordered life, sowing chaos. And as annoying as he is, part of Ines seems to relish the anarchic Toni’s antics…

 

I have no soul.
This is not exactly news to me. People, usually women, usually on the downslope of a relationship, have often told me this. I’m cold, distant, remote. I lack warmth, empathy. I have no joy in my heart, I’m an empty husk of a man.
And I’m mean-spirited with it.
 
I shed not a single manly tear when Obama left office. I sent postcards of Princess Di’s head bearing offensive messages on the eve of her funeral. I haunt social media merely to mock the photos friends post of their ugly babies. Like some kind of existential Poundland Raskolnikov, I once put a blind woman on the wrong train, JUST TO SEE IF I COULD! And I got away with it! Not only would I have fired Ryan Gosling for playing jazz while people are trying to eat, I’d have beat him bloody with a pepper grinder in the loo. And the funniest film I’ve seen this year was Manchester By The Sea. In short, I’m a pathetic excuse for a human being who lacks the warmth and depth of a soft-boiled egg. Which might explain why I’m not joining my fellow film hacks in ecstatically splaffling over the critically acclaimed Cannes-darling and recently Oscar-nominated, 162 minute long German comedy Toni Erdmann. Yup, you read that right, 162 minutes.

 

162 minutes long. ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY TWO MINUTES LONG. Few films need to be 162 minutes long. Certainly not a  comedy about an embarrassing father reconnecting with his estranged adult daughter. And at 162 minutes, it’s at least 62 minutes too long. That’s not to say Toni Erdmann is a bad film; it’s not.
The performances are good and the film mines a painful, bittersweet seam of melancholia where shared emotional connection and catharsis are fleeting at best. A shambling mess of a man, Simonischek’s Winfried is every inappropriate father who’s ever danced embarrassingly at a wedding, shamed you with an ill-conceived racist joke or embraced your other half just that little bit longer than comfortable while Hüller is a glacial bag of nerves, a sleek corporate killer on the surface who’s riddled with insecurity, Ade’s leisurely script just dark enough to allow you to draw your own conclusions about just how twisted their relationship really is. But whether he’s Winfried or Toni, there’s just something creepy about Simonischek’s obsessive father, something pathetic, something tragic. He’s the class clown grown old if not exactly up,  a sad, lost, lonely man regurgitating the same old jokes, playing the buffoon his pre-teen daughter loved and he hopes will love again.

 

German comedy. German. Comedy. There’s a reason why those words aren’t often seen together. Toni Erdmann’s just not that funny. Sure, it furnished the odd wry chuckle but, for a comedy that’s 162 minutes long, I laughed, I mean really laughed, belly laughed, precisely twice. And one them involved a sex act involving a French Fancy that Mr Kipling never conceived of. I may be wrong however, remember, I have no soul. Maybe I wasn’t wetting myself at Toni Erdmann and his antics but most of the rest of the audience were. Maybe I just lack a sense of humour. After all, I lack warmth, empathy. I have no joy in my heart. Maybe Toni Erdmann’s every bit as funny as everyone else is telling you. But no comedy needs to be 162 minutes.
Think about that. 162 minutes. Think about all the things you could do in 162 minutes. I could fly to Scotland, have a pint at the airport with my own embarrassing father and fly back to London in that time. Maybe I should have.
Movie Review: Toni Erdmann
3.0Overall Score
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