Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Toni Erdmann

This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Sandra Huller as Ines, left, and and Peter Simonischek as Winfried in a scene from the Komplizen Film, "Toni Erdmann." The film was nomina
This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Sandra Huller as Ines, left, and and Peter Simonischek as Winfried in a scene from the Komplizen Film, "Toni Erdmann." The film was nomina

This dry, beautifully acted German comedy is making waves around the world.

It's a nominee in the Best Foreign Language film category at the Oscars this month, and has made headlines because Jack Nicholson loved the film so much he's coming out of retirement to star in an American remake.

There's another simple reason we should be talking Toni Erdmann; it's a German comedy - a sparsely populated genre.

A carefully crafted and honest film about artistic father Winfried connecting with business orientated daughter Ines, Toni Erdmann isn't an endless series of laugh-out-loud gags so much as a terrifically funny opening scene and climax, with the in-between littered with gags and observations about family.

It's funny in a way that fluctuates from amusing and clever, to awkward and a touch depressing - and it's how it manages to be all these things that's refreshing. The unusual tone is accentuated by a simple observational documentary-shooting style so we feel we're in the room with Winfried and Ines, experiencing their relationship at close range.

Peter Simonischek is fabulous as Winfried, a divorced, semi-retired music teacher who loves a practical joke. In truth, Toni Erdmann could almost be one long "Dad joke", with Winfred taking any opportunity to amuse friends and students by dressing up in a wig, false teeth and accent while sitting on a whoopee cushion.

Huller is excellent as Ines, and while she remains stony-faced throughout her father's ongoing shenanigans you sense the emotions flooding her body.

Toni Erdmann will polarise audiences - it refuses to be labelled a comedy or drama, instead presenting true and nuanced performances which deliver a timeless message about what's important.

It's easy to see why Nicholson is interested, and to anticipate how his interpretation will be presented, but if you're in the mood for something a little more unsettling, sad, joyful and yes, at times, plain slow, then the original is the way to go.


Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller
Director: Maren Ade
Running Time: 162 mins
Rating: R16 (Sex scenes, nudity, drug use and offensive language
Verdict: An unusual and challenging film that's hugely rewarding in the end.

- NZ Herald

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