Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Toni Erdmann" Thrives In Its Anomalous Nature


Toni Erdmann is the German entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars and rightfully so. It has also caught such fire that there's already a Hollywood remake in the works with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig. Perfect casting in a remake that in my opinion is unneeded because it'll be hard to top the absurdity mixed with poignancy that the original Toni Erdmann offers.

Toni Erdmann is about a divorced father named Winfried, played by Peter Simonischek, who looks to bond with his career-driven daughter Ines, played by Sandra Huller, after his dog passes away. The eccentric bond they create comes in the form of Winfried undergoing the persona of the titular character, donning a wig and fake teeth. But through all that eccentricities lies a father and daughter realizing their inner loneliness and emotional need for one another.

The main reason the film works so amazingly well is because of the two main actors. Peter Simonischek helps bring the film's funniest moments as Winfried yet he also flawlessly portrays his character's earnest nature. Winfried is an unorthodox figure with how he roleplays and dresses up in costume but he is a man with a heart of gold. Sandra Huller is equally as astonishing as Ines, a character that in lesser hands, could've been written as another cliched shrewd career-driven woman. But in the hands of Huller and director/writer Maren Ade, Ines is given more dimensions. Huller's Ines is prickly and showcases acerbic wit yet she is also very earthly, sexual, and vulnerable. There is a scene where she sings a rendition of "Greatest Love Of All" by Whitney Houston and Huller rather expertly performs the song with comical yet soul bearing deadpan.

Now I'm going to go into something that is likely going to divide a lot of people: the length. This movie is about 163 minutes which didn't bother me TOO much but at ths same time, it could've been a lot shorter. Though if it wasn't for the energetic performances by the two main actors and the writing by Maren Ade that aides their humanistic performances, I probably would've fallen asleep.

In spite of it being pretty overlong, I was absolutely enthralled by Toni Erdmann. I loved the two complex performances by the lead actors and I loved the writing from writer/director Maren Ade who provides a colorful yet poignant demonstration of family love that had me chuckling. By the end of this film, it made me want to sing "Greatest Love Of All" and if you guys check it out, hopefully you will too.

Grade: A-