‘Toni Erdmann’ tells a comical father-daughter tale


Don’t let the running time scare you: “Toni Erdmann,” the critically lauded German comedy from director Maren Ade, doesn’t seem to last for two hours and 42 minutes. Instead, the movie has a slow buildup to an emotional release that’s worth the wait.

The movie, nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, is basically about the relationship between a lonely father, Winfried, and his career-oriented daughter, Ines, who’s working as a corporate strategist in Bucharest, Romania. Ines is always on her cellphone, thinking of ways to cut people’s jobs and make her company more money. Winfried, meanwhile, is a kind-hearted soul who just lost his last piano student as well as his elderly dog.

When Ines (Sandra Huller) comes home to Germany for a family event, she ignores her father (Peter Simonischek) and everyone else by doing business on her phone and shrugging off her father’s pleas for attention. While proud of Ines and her corporate success, Winfried is also worried that his daughter is working too hard and missing out on life.

So, when Ines returns to Bucharest, Winfried has an idea. He’ll show up at her apartment there for a short visit and try to renew old bonds.

It doesn’t work out. She’s busy. He makes jabs at her ambitions. She resents his presence. So Winfried leaves after a tense weekend. Or at least Ines thinks he has left.

That’s when Winfried takes matters a step further: He becomes Toni Erdmann, a smooth-talking, wig-wearing flashy guy who pretends to be a life coach for the rich. And he begins to show up at Ines’ workplace, at the bars she frequents and elsewhere.

Both of these folks are strong-willed, and it becomes increasingly clear that neither is likely to back down. So we have one scene after another of their tug of war.

Such a setup requires strong performances from the two main actors, and Simonischek and Huller deliver. But of the two, Huller makes her character far more interesting, in part because she epitomizes someone who’s very competent at work and maybe even regards herself as one of the guys, only to find out that they really don’t see it that way.

Yet this isn’t a typical movie about feminism. Ines tells her male co-workers, “I’m not a feminist or I wouldn’t tolerate guys like you,” and writer/director Ade has said she wasn’t trying to make any big feminist statement with the movie. Rather, she says, she simply wanted to show how sexism works — and how that plays out in people’s lives.

The movie climaxes with a party that can be described as nuts. And it’s best not to say too much about it here. But it’s one of the most unusual, awkward scenes you’ll ever see on the big screen. It’s not to be missed.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

Lisa Marie Presley sues ex-manager contending he lost her $100 million fortune
Lisa Marie Presley sues ex-manager contending he lost her $100 million fortune

Lisa Marie Presley is suing her former manager, Barry Siegel, for “reckless and negligent mismanagement” of her inherited estate, but her estranged husband was quick to call her so-called mountain of debt a lie. >> Read more trending news  Presley inherited $100 million from her rock ‘n’ roll father Elvis Presley...
What does cream of tartar do? And other food questions answered
What does cream of tartar do? And other food questions answered

The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat. A: Yes, the easiest thing would be to freeze the juice and the zest (separately). - Joe Yonan A: Cream of tartar shows up in retro baking recipes because, as an acid, it helps activate baking soda. (Baking powder combines the...
Recipe of the Week: Meat-free polenta ‘steaks’ with mushroom gravy
Recipe of the Week: Meat-free polenta ‘steaks’ with mushroom gravy

Chicken-fried steak is one of the ultimate comfort foods, but if you’re eating less meat, it can be difficult — at first — to replicate those rich flavors without beef. ”Modern Comfort Cooking” author Lauren Grier didn’t let that stop her. Chicken-fried steak “is something I plunge into on a semi-annual basis...
Britney Spear’s ex K-Fed wants child support increase amid star’s Vegas success
Britney Spear’s ex K-Fed wants child support increase amid star’s Vegas success

After seeing how successful her four-year Las Vegas residency has been, Britney Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline is asking for an increase in child support. >> Read more trending news  Federline’s attorney reportedly sent the pop singer a letter recently indicating that he would like to renegotiate the $20...
Actress Nanette Fabray, Tony, Emmy-winning star of stage and screen, dead at 97
Actress Nanette Fabray, Tony, Emmy-winning star of stage and screen, dead at 97

Award-winning actress and comedian Nanette Fabray has died at the age of 97, Variety reported Friday. Fabray was known for her charm, energetic exuberance and multi-talented performances in musical theatre in the 1940’s, as well as movies and TV in the 1950’s. >> Read more trending news  She won a Tony Award for her performance...
More Stories