This father-daughter dramedy/farce from German director Maren Ade may clock in at 162 minutes, but I never got bored and it certainly didn’t drag. The film starts with a familiar premise, but doesn’t go to the sentimental or obvious places you’re expecting. It pits Ines (Sandra Hüller), an über-focused young corporate consultant, against her semi-retired dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who just loves a good gag or practical joke. He drops in for an unannounced visit with Ines and tries to get her to loosen up and have a life, and all she wants is for him to go home so she can get back to business. Though it does lead to a happy ending, the journey is full of absurd scenes and uncomfortable moments.
Ines is currently consulting with an oil company in Romania that wants to outsource and lay off workers, and to blame a foreign corporation for it. She is working 24/7, so when Winfried arrives, she includes him in her life by taking him to business meetings and social gatherings. He sees her life as woefully lacking in happiness and when he asks her about it she replies,”What do you mean by happy? Happiness is a strong word.” And after a short stay he leaves. Psych! He moves out but stays in town and starts showing up at Ines’s company offices and her business/social gatherings badly bewigged and sporting his favorite fake teeth. And he introduces himself to her friends and colleagues as Toni Erdmann, an odd but sociable business tycoon. Ines is too worried about the business repercussions to call him out, so she grudgingly includes him more and more, leading to some of the most absurd and unsettling situations on film ever, as well as some hilarious and touching moments.
Toni Erdamm was a 2017 Oscar nominee for best foreign language film. It’s success derives in large part from the funny but wistful performance of Peter Simonischek. But Sandra Hüller is also pretty perfect as the defensive yet susceptible Ines. The film is set mostly in Bucharest, with the characters switching between German, Romanian and English throughout. So you must be willing to read subtitles, but I highly recommend it to fathers and daughters, corporate workaholics, and lovers of farce.
NOTE: There is already an American remake in the works starring Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig. I expect it to be shorter and a lot less subtle. So see this first!