Thursday, October 6, 2016

Masks We Wear: Why Toni Erdman is the Best Film of the Year

Toni Erdmann (2016) - Ade
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Hollywood would have made a terrible film out of the premise of Toni Erdmann- starring the late Robin Williams and Kate Mara perhaps as goofy clownish father trying to teach his uptight, humorless grownup daughter to not take life too seriously and enjoy the moment or something. He would die and there would be a funeral and it would be a tearjerker and Mara does something goofy and... the end. It would've been a comedy that is best described by its tagline, "It's the 'Take Your Father to Work' Day!"

Toni Erdmann, even with its 2 1/2hrs running time, like the practical joke prone father character's favorite word choice, "spontaneously", is full of surprises that makes you laugh at every turn. Winfried (Peter Simonischeck) and Ines (Sandra Hüller) are very real and their interaction funny and touching. But it's not daddy nostalgia type movie. It's the first film I've seen that takes the father daughter relationship between two adults: one person putting on a ridiculous persona to mirror another playing the role of icy queen in the corporate world. That's why birthday scene works so well. But Ines's unraveling, or loosening up a little comes in even earlier in another ridiculous scene involving a naughty pastries. Even in its most riotous moments, involving, ehm, Whitney Houston song, it's not nostalgia but making an ass out of yourself/letting your hair down once in a while. It goes the same way with the prolonged ending- grown ups don't change drastically. Letting your hair down once is not going to change your life. In this sense, Erdmann doesn't have a happy ending. Ade doesn't end her film in Where the Wild Things Are style. She is too smart and mature for that. But it's not a sad movie either. We live out lives hoping that we are making some kind of impact on people you expect the same from others on you. That is what we hope for anyway. Toni Erdmann deserves all the accolades. It's amazingly acted, best written film I've seen this year.