- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Toni Erdmann

| October 14, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Toni Erdmann.

Foreign comedy films are the hardest genre to enjoy in my opinion. It has nothing to do with it being a comedy. I know that this is probably the first comedy I have reviewed as part of this series, but know that I do enjoy comedies. I also very much enjoy foreign films, otherwise, this series would be kind of redundant. The problem is that what makes comedy great isn’t the jokes itself, but the timing. You can’t get hit by a performers punchline if you’re reading what the performer is going to say. It ruins the timing almost always. That is what makes this films so baffling. This film is in three different languages throughout, and the timing is perfect. The film is so well crafted, not only in comedy timing but in the bare basics of pacing, that it is a pleasure to watch.

Toni Erdmann, directed by Maren Ade, was the frontrunner to win this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Or at least is was the frontrunner until it was completely shut out. I’m seeing what won the Palme later this month so we’ll see if they made the right decision. When the presenter of the film festival introduced the film, she said that it was hard to describe. She stated that the film is about a father and daughter relationship, but with more than you would think. She said that the film is about sexism in the workplace, but in a different way than you would imagine. The film does fall under that rule. But at the end of the day, I think that those two aspects aren’t what makes this film great. This film is about humanity. The film gives its optimistic view as to how you should live your life. And that’s what makes this film so special.

Toni Erdmann follows an aged and divorced father who decides to spontaneously visit his grown and business successful daughter without warning. This sounds like a simple enough film with a simple enough idea. Sounds like a real fun hour and a half long film. Toni Erdmann is almost three hours long. Toni Erdmann has no right to be the same length as The Godfather. But Toni Erdmann wears its length better than almost every other film made this year. For how long this film is, the pacing is done so wonderfully that I never wanted the film to be over. It never felt like we were doing something that didn’t need to be there. It felt natural and fun and happy. I wasn’t waiting for the film to end, but when it did end, I embraced it and knew that I didn’t need anything else. The presenter said that this film is the fastest three-hour long film you will see this year. And she is damn right.

Part of what makes the film so great is a combination of both the lead performers, neither of which I have seen before but I am on the move to change that real quick. The male lead, played by Peter Simonischek, is so lovable and goofy while also showing real pain in some scenes. This alone makes him one of the best characters in a film this year. His big motive in life is to find humor and fun in the mundane and everyday life. The exact opposite of what his daughter, played by Sandra Hüller, believes. The daughter characters opposition of the lifestyle her father lives, you would think would give the biggest laughs. Surprisingly, to me at least, this is where most of the heart comes from. A majority of the film is the father realizing that his daughter is successful but unhappy. So what results is him doing his best to give his daughter happiness through jokes and pranks. But once you realize this, the jokes are outweighed by the knowledge of how unhappy his daughter really is, and how no matter what he does to cheer her up, he ends up just getting in the way. The film does a fantastic job of having you relate to both of the characters in ways that you never hate the other one, but you have a real family sense between the two.

A majority of the film is establishing the characters. This includes the two leads, but also includes almost every other character in the film. There is a party scene toward the end of the film, that is honestly the funniest scene I may have seen all year. Once the scene ended I thought, “This would be a good scene to show people if they didn’t want to sit through the entire film”. But what I realized after the film was over was that the scene completely fails if you don’t know who these characters are. Each character in the scene does something that calls back to a character development moment from earlier in the film. The party scene takes everything you learned about the characters from the film and gives you the biggest payoff of any film I’ve seen this year. It would have been a great place to end the film, but the film goes one step further and ends with a scene that makes you love the film even more so. I will say that this is the first film I’ve seen this year that has made me cry, and it was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve seen in a film all year.

We’re getting to the point of the year where, if I’m lucky, I’ll be saying “This is the best film I’ve seen all year” for multiple films. This is the best film I’ve seen all year. It’s beautiful. It’s hilarious. It’s heartwarming. It’s a reminder that life isn’t as horrible as we often make it out to be. There is one line in the film that hit me harder than I would have imagined, and I think I’m going to end this review with it. Because if you sit through this film, which I highly recommend, I think you will feel something you may not have felt in a long time, at least that’s how it was for me. Please, don’t loose your sense of humor.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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