By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2016--TONI ERDMANN  Send This Review to a Friend

This is a father-daughter story like no other. Its language is comedy, but there is heart and the need for liberation involved. German writer-director Maren Ade has fashioned a lengthy journey (162 minutes of it) marked by a father embarrassing a daughter, yet in the process demonstrating to her that there is more to life than achieving success in business.

Sandra Hüler gives a well-rounded, appealing performance as Ines, an ambitious, corporate ladder-climbing woman bent on achieving success. She is based in Bucharest, Romania, and extremely tense most of the time, as she is eager to succeed in a major business meeting with important executives and connections.

Her father Winfried, exuberantly played by Peter Simonischek, has taught piano, and now is easing off work as he lives in a suburban area of Germany. He is given to playing pranks, and likes to shock people with disguises, such as inserting garish false teeth in his mouth. There is emotional distance between him and Ines, who finds him embarrassing.

The film takes off when dad decides to pay a surprise visit to his daughter in Bucharest. He is the last thing she thinks she needs in her scheme of life. But, as we see to her great distress and his enjoyment, Winfried becomes the unwanted life of the party with his antics, which embarrass Ines no end as he intrudes upon the meetings, yet in a very funny gambit, he becomes useful.

Of course, we know all along that the episode will help make her more human. All of this comes together when she throws a party for colleagues, and caught unprepared and not yet dressed, she throws caution to the winds and greets guests in the nude, including business colleagues, and declares it intended as a naked party. The scene is hilarious and a situation that not only entertains us but is a life-changing experience for Ines.

Much happens throughout the film, but it does take a bit too long, leaving an impression that the film could be tightened. But it is a consistently lively movie laced with plenty of humor, funny encounters, attractive locations and, most importantly, contains its impressive lead performances. I was especially taken with the acting by Hüler, who brilliantly drives the film in a complementary performance with the entertaining one by Simonischek. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Reviewed December 16, 2016.

  

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