For those of you who are capable of sitting through nearly three hours of a subtitled German comedy, Toni Erdmann is the perfect movie for you to use your amazing talents. But, if you’re used to slapstick comedies that last for an hour and a half, move on—even the nude brunch scene isn’t worth the three hours of fidgeting and shifting in your seat.
Recently a huge hit at the Cannes Film Festival, Toni Erdmann received a lot of buzz leading up to its first screening on the opening day of TIFF. It was written and directed by German filmmaker Maren Ade, who is also known for her other films, including The Forest for the Trees.
The film follows the life of Ines Conradi (Sandra Hüller), a high-ranking consultant whose job is to advise firms on downsizing and layoffs. Not only is the work depressing and done in uncomfortable pantsuits, it takes her to Romania and away from her family in Germany.
While meeting up with family at her birthday party, Ines spends most of the time working from her phone. Her father, a divorced and retired music teacher named Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), notices how distant they’ve become and how humourless his daughter’s mood has been lately.
Not one to solve problems with a phone call or Skype session, Winfried decides that a surprise visit to his daughter’s apartment in Romania is exactly what she needs. Ines’ life suddenly becomes even more chaotic than for most people forced to live with their parents, largely due to the fact that Winfried is an insatiable prankster. When taking on his prankster role, Winfried does a Jekyll and Hyde-esque transformation into the character of Toni Erdmann (“Aha!” you think, “Halfway through the review and I finally know the meaning of that weird foreign title.”) He is so dedicated to his “craft” that he always keeps Toni’s signature set of goofy prop teeth in his shirt pocket, for easy access to immediate awkwardness at all times.
Somewhere in the hijinks of the movie’s last two hours, Toni helps Ines discover her own hilarious Hyde, and the lone comedian from the beginning of the movie finds a new comedian friend.
The only drawback of Toni Erdmann is its length, as it commands your attention for 162 entire minutes. That’s nearly three hours you could be using to shop, eat or play Pokemon Go if TIFF isn’t your scene.
The slow start of the movie could have been edited down, so the wait for stomach-clenching laughter is filled with less dead air. The shots were not quite beautiful enough to give me something to focus on during the long moments of silence, making some scenes dull and uninteresting.
To be honest, I did get fidgety around the middle of the film. I did that thing where you cross your leg over the opposite one at least 46 times, so I’m sure the person who sat next to me was really annoyed and assumed I was a TIFF novice. In the end, I still thought Toni Erdmann was worth watching for those moments of laugh-out-loud happiness that not a single audience member kept quiet for.
Toni Erdmann will be in theatres Dec. 25.