Lucky Kernel Jack, another movie screening I couldn’t attend and he scored big time with the screening of TONI ERDMANN. Germany’s Official 2017 Academy Award entry for Best Foreign Language Film. A comedy so good all I hear is endless praise. Even with a running time just under three hours it is not deterring people from the love they keep shovelling on this movie. TONI ERDMANN releases in Australia on February 9th from Madman Films, it is 162mins long and is rated M. To find out which cinemas are screening this foreign art-house MUST SEE – click HERE. Enjoy Kernel Jack’s thought on this one and see you in the queue when it releases – I gotta see this one! All the best……..JK.
Fake teeth, full frontal nudity, terrible yet somehow convincing wigs, toenail removal, sudden bursts of song and fart cushions. TONI ERDMANN has got it all. The third feature film from writer-director Maren Ade is a unique and prosperous movie, and currently the frontrunner for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar next month. Many have been up in arms about the exclusion of ELLE, but having seen both films, I’m honestly glad that it’s looking as though TONI ERDMANN is going to go home victorious. In my eyes, it’s a far superior film.
TONI ERDMANN SYNOPSIS:
For a film with a near three-hour runtime, the plot is surprisingly simplistic. Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a divorced schoolteacher, his expertise being music and practical jokes. His life is starting to get a little more uneventful than he would’ve liked, but a short visit from his daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller), gives him an idea. He doesn’t see her as much as he would like, since she works overseas with little to no free time. So, much to her shock and presumed disapproval, Winfried gives her a surprise visit at her overseas home.
When the weekend is done and Ines has reached the limits of her patience, Winfried flies on back home to Germany. Or so she thinks. Instead, Winfried adapts his skills as a practical joker and takes on the alter ego of Toni Erdmann, posing as an important businessman within Ines’s workplace. Cue the silliness, drama and earnestness one would expect from a plot as hilariously ridiculous as this one.
Humour is a hard thing to nail, and is usually aimed at different types of audiences. When it comes to TONI ERDMANN, there’s not quite as much as you’d expect. The humour is there when it needs to be, usually stemmed from the ridiculousness of the plot or the nature of these characters. It’s not overbearing, which is a very good thing. TONI ERDMANN, to my surprise, is not a full on comedy. It’s more so a dramedy, which works for the plot at hand. I wouldn’t want it any other way, for it’s tonally focused and achieves exactly what it was going for.
A lot of the humour in the first half is there for laughs. Obviously. Not every single joke lands, and the opening scene doesn’t do the best job at setting up what sort of a movie this is going to be, but for the most part, it works. Once the family drama takes a more predominant role, the humour is held back a little. It’s used more for heartfelt moments, a showcase of Winfried’s sincerity and appreciation of all sorts of things. It’s brought forth through the characters, some of the running jokes even blossoming into emotional story beats.
As for the film’s believability, that needs to be split into two categories. The first category is the believability of the plot. If taken with a grain of salt, it’s realistic enough. These characters and these scenarios feel like real people, however it does need you to just roll with a few things. Winfried, for the sake of the (rather genius) plot, is somehow just allowed into all of these work functions and events, without any question by anyone. Everyone rolls along with his presence as if he’d been there the whole time. It’s funny and works in the plot’s favour, but let’s be real, it’s a stretch of the film’s realism. There’s no way this would happen the way it happens, and that thought was constantly lingering about in my mind.
In terms of acting, however, they make everything feel authentic. The performances don’t feel like performances. It feels like you’re watching real life people do their thing. I could definitely see Winfried, who was without a doubt my favourite character, feeling reminiscent of someone in real life. He’s the type of loveable jokester that could totally exist, and Simonischek nails the role. Hüller, too, is fantastic, their relationship working as the centerpiece of this movie. The only downside to this is that the film seems to toss back and forth between which one of them to focus on. It switches up the perspective every so often, leading to jarring results.
PATIENCE PAYS OFF:
A 162-minute runtime can seem quite daunting, especially for a foreign language comedy, yet not a single minute of this runtime is wasted. If you’re an impatient person when it comes to movies, this film might not be for you. It takes a long time for some of the plots to reach their payoff, but trust me, they do. Its recurring themes and lengthy scenes are all there for good reason, whether it’s to add character depth or lead into another aspect of the plot. It’s a lengthy viewing, but well worth your time. The film barely even feels as though it were two hours long, let alone just under three. I was shocked to find it coming to a close so soon, as there’s just so much fun to be had.
The ultimate payoff comes in the form of two scenes late into the third act. I won’t delve into spoilers, obviously, but when the first scene starts, you’re in for a treat. It’s the most hilarious and emotionally satisfying moment from the entire film, and through all its awkwardness and un-comfortableness, greatness shines. It’s a culmination of the plot at hand, each aspect being worked into the scenarios and the character arcs finally getting their much-needed development. It was the moment in which I first thought to myself “I love this movie.”
There simply are no other movies out there even remotely like TONI ERDMANN. It’s an original, hilarious, heartfelt and endearing film that I do hope gets its much-deserved Oscar. Please, if you’re a fan of cinema, check this movie out. Don’t be swayed by the runtime, it is well worth a watch.
When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages. He has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – www.directorscutmovies.com – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet.
** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.