TONI ERDMANN — Review by Susan Granger

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Going into the Oscar Foreign Language race as an overwhelming favorite, German filmmaker Maren Ade’s poignant comedic-drama revolves around a practical-joking father who tries to reconnect with his uptight daughter by creating an outrageous alter-ego. Within that context, Ade satirically tackles feminism, workplace sexism, international capitalism, and German arrogance within the European Union.
After his beloved dog dies, divorced, middle-aged music teacher Winifred Conradi (Peter Simonischek) feels totally lost. So he tries to reconnect with his only child – daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) – who is obsessive about her executive consulting work in Romania. Read on…

When Winifred, an eccentric prankster, turns up, unannounced, in Bucharest for the weekend, Ines is curt and obviously annoyed. “Are you really human?” he finally inquires.

Refusing to give up, free-spirited Winifred defiantly becomes an abrasive con-man, a “management coach” named Toni Erdmann, creating chaos in Ines’ high-pressure business life.

“It’s very complicated,” he admits.

The most memorable moments occur when Ines performs Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” in the middle of an Orthodox egg-painting party, followed by doffing her too-tight cocktail dress for an impromptu, existential, all-nude “team-building” birthday brunch.

After spending more than two years researching and writing, director Maren Ade notes: “The directing part is more about making the story more rich and complicated in its subtext.”

“I am interested in the drama of daily life, making the banal moments as dramatic as possible,” Ade goes on. “I like to shoot lots of variations on that so that, when I am at the editing table, I can continue to ‘write’ in a way.”

For that reason, it’s not surprising that “Toni Erdmann” runs nearly three hours – and the slow-building, character-establishing pace tests the audience’s patience.

FYI: Three-time Oscar-winner Jack Nicholson Is determined to come out of semi-retirement to star in an English-language remake – with Kristin Wiig as his long-suffering daughter.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Toni Erdmann” teases with an unpredictable, exuberant 8. It’s wildly rebellious and absurdly redemptive.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.