"Pranks for the Memories"
What You Need To Know:
TONI ERDMANN could have been a wild, fun comedy. However, the female writer and director turns it into a no frills, slow-moving character study, with a natural soundtrack. Even worse, she throws in a lewd sex scene between Ines and her boyfriend. Also, the ending contains another lengthy lewd scene with much more excessive nudity. Ultimately, TONI ERDMANN has a strong Romantic worldview with lawless elements, strong foul language and two extremely lewd scenes with excessive nudity.
(RoRo, FRFR, B, Acap, LL, V, SS, NNN, AA, DD, MM) Strong Romantic worldview promoting an antinomian, lawless view of some principles that could be positive otherwise, including the idea to cherish precious moments in life and the idea to keep one’s sense of humor, but people take principles too far, plus some anti-capitalist elements include images of haves and have nots in one scene, and oil company is criticized for planning to outsource jobs; eight obscenities (mostly “f” and “s” words) and four light exclamatory profanities; light comic violence when daughter slaps father’s chest and arms after he suddenly steps out of a closet and scares her, and woman gets blood on her blouse from dealing with a wounded toenail in bathroom; strong sexual content with extreme nudity in two scenes includes woman angry at her father takes it out on her boyfriend and orders him to masturbate, boyfriend fondles woman’s breasts and takes off his clothes, passionate kissing, woman has trouble changes her dress at planned birthday party when people start arriving decides to make party a nude party and orders people to take off all their clothes, two other people decide to stay and comply, man pours champagne from his pants in lewd gesture; full frontal female nudity in one scene, full male nudity in two scenes, images of upper and rear female nudity, images of women in panties, and man takes off his shirt in on scene; alcohol use in several scenes and drunkenness in one scene; smoking and three people snort cocaine before driving to a club; and, man in wig pretends to be someone else, and daughter goes along with the prank, man pulls a couple other lighter pranks as jokes, a father and daughter are estranged but come a little closer together by end.
TONI ERDMANN is an overlong, comical character study from Germany about an estranged father and daughter, who clash when the jokester dad suddenly shows up one day at her consulting firm in Bucharest, Romania. TONI ERDMANN has some unique endearing qualities, but it’s marred by a strong Romantic worldview with lawless elements, some foul language and two lewd scenes with excessive nudity.
The movie begins with a middle-aged, grey-haired man named Winfried confusing a delivery man by posing as twins and making jokes about defusing bombs. Later, he goes to his ex-wife’s house to see their only child, Ines, who’s just returned from a business trip to Shanghai, and who works as an industrial consultant in Bucharest, Romania. Winfried is upset they’re having an early birthday party for Ines, who’s returning to Bucharest the next day. He barely has time to talk to Ines because she’s always on the phone, but he promises he’ll get a birthday gift to her by the time her birthday arrives.
When Winfried’s elderly blind dog suddenly dies, he shows up at his daughter’s company in Bucharest, where she’s trying to finalize a deal with a German oil company there that wants to outsource its Romanian jobs. Reluctantly, Ines drags her disheveled father to a party at the American embassy, but he keeps making uncomfortable jokes, even in front of the oil company’s CEO.
That weekend, the tension between father and daughter mounts, and Winfried decides to return home. However, when Ines goes out to dinner with her female friends, Winfried shows up in a black wig and a suit and calls himself Toni Erdmann. He also pretends to be a consultant and personal coach to the oil company CEO. Afraid to hurt her business affairs, Ines plays along with her father, but how long will that last?
TONI ERDMANN sounds like it could be a wild, fun comedy from Germany. However, the movie’s female writer and director, Maren Ade, turns it into a no frills, slow-moving character study, with a natural soundtrack. Even worse, she throws in a lewd sex scene between Ines and her boyfriend. That scene also includes the movie’s first “f” words. Then, the ending contains another lengthy lewd scene with much more excessive nudity.
Ultimately, Maren Ade seems to be making two major points or messages. Both messages are conveyed by the father in the story.
The first message is: Don’t take everything so seriously or lose your sense of humor. The second message is combined with the first when the father advises his daughter not to focus so much on her business affairs or obligations and let the precious moments of life will pass by her. One of the best moments he remembers, he says, was watching her as a child learn to ride a bicycle for the first time.
Eventually, Ines adopts these two life lessons from her father. They seem to have a positive effect on her uptight character, but only up to a point. For instance, in one scene, they also encourage her to let go of all her inhibitions. It’s a funny scene, but it includes Ines taking off all her clothes at her private birthday party in Bucharest and encouraging everyone else to do the same.
So, in the end, TONI ERDMANN presents a strong Romantic worldview that uses some potentially positive principles to promote a lawless attitude. Even that message, however, doesn’t need crude language or extreme nudity to accompany it. It’s certainly not going to appeal to any truly discerning moviegoers if you take so long to deliver the message or wrap it with so unattractive a packaging. TONI ERDMANN seems to be a perfect example of form working against content.