Of late we’ve found many an oxymoron, that is to say, a contradiction in terms in the news such as – an honest politician, a deafening silence and of course Amanda Holden: Talent judge. To that we can also now add German Comedy with the release of this week’s new film ‘Toni Erdmann’. Yes it’s in German, yes it’s got subtitles but don’t let that put you off. The opening scene sets the tone for the type of film it is where actor Peter Simonischek as Winifried Conradi answers the door to a postman delivering a parcel for him only to be told that it’s for his brother and retreats back into the house only to return as the ‘brother’ and telling the confused postman that it’s a parcel bomb he’s posted to himself so as he can practice defusing it.
As Winifired, Simonischek is that most embarrassing of relations, the joker Dad. Unlike his daughter, Ines, he revels in daft jokes with particular penchant for popping a set of fake teeth into his mouth at inopportune moments. He’s the polar opposite of his straight laced corporate climber daughter who finds his behaviour humiliating and after an unsuccessful weekend visiting her he leaves, much to her relief. After an hour of interesting character development it’s then that that the film really takes off when he comes back into her life as his alter ego, Toni Erdmann, a buck toothed, mullet haired shambles of a man passing himself off as his daughter’s life coach at a business party. It’s here that she risks losing a major client only to find that the client finds her father’s alter ego better company than her and that its actually her that risks losing the clients business.
What follows is a series of episodes as the father tries to reconnect with his daughter as she slowly but surely warms to him, loosens up and starts to embrace life as much as her father does. In some very funny scenes the highlight of which is the nude works party she holds at her flat. But there are other scenes which are just as satisfyingly funny including a notable scene where he embarrasses her into singing a Whitney Houston song at a family party. It’s not all laughs though as there’s an exceptionally awkward and unsavoury sex scene which will put you off hors’ d’oeuvres for a long time..
With Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller as the father and daughter they play well off one another and albeit that he looks at times like Barry Humphries in his Sir Les Patterson persona channelling Benny Hill it’s Huller who has the more demanding character arc. At almost 3hours long this is an extraordinarily long running time for a comedy (and hopefully Adam Sandler will not follow suit with any of his future films). Some may find this funny peculiar rather than funny ha-ha and it does flag slightly at times but if you can stick with it it’s a satisfying exploration of family dynamics.
Here’s the trailer……