By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.
Though sluggish and lingering on occasion, Toni Erdmann (2016), a Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the 89th Academy Awards, is a pleasant and leisurely, quietly charming journey for most of its massive 162-minute runtime. The performances are solid, natural and believable. This is especially accurate when considering Sandra Huller’s lead depiction of the hardworking Ines Conradi. Peter Simonischeck is just as impressive as Conradi’s practical joker of a father, Winifred. Coincidentally, he is responsible for setting the amusing, yet threadbare, plot in motion. This is when he creates the title alter ego in an endeavor to push his way into his daughter’s business life.
Throughout the course of the narrative, there are enough similarly authentic moments of offbeat laughter, engaging character development and subtle drama to keep the project afloat. Additionally, Maren Ade’s sharp and sophisticated writing and direction, as well as Patrick Orth’s ruggedly immersive cinematography, highlight the previously stated life-mirroring qualities of the project well. Still, this can’t mask the fact that there simply isn’t enough story to merit the extended length. The result is a flawed, but ultimately rewarding and mature, cinematic venture.
(R). Contains adult language, graphic nudity, sexuality and drug use.
Released theatrically in the United States on December 25th, 2016.
Available now to rent or buy at Amazon.