By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
The big news the last few weeks was that Jack Nicholson would return from retirement and alleged senility to lead the inevitable Hollywood remake of the beloved European arthouse/shock comedy Toni Erdmann.
Which Bill Murray would’ve got if he bothered to pick up his phone.
Toni Erdmann is the bewigged, fake-teethed comedic alter ego of an old German jokester (Peter Simonischek) whose dog dies, prompting him to, it appears, sell everything and take a vacation to Bucharest to life-coach his high-strung, high-powered businesswoman daughter (Sandra Huller) in the most unsolicited way imaginable.
I have no idea how they’re going to remake this film, or I do- the in some circles-described That’s My Boy meets Michael Haneke unclassifiable jewel is likely to get an arthouse haircut.
Also funnier than That’s My Boy
Not that it matters, because we have this exhilaratingly controlled reckless abandon of a film. Director Maren Ade is an evil genius, playing these ridiculous-behaving characters entirely with a straight face, allowing her psychological inroads into rote stock stereotypes in anyone else’s hands- the aging prankster with no filter, the ice queen in need of a laugh- while ramping up the discomfort and near transcendent strangeness of her shock comedy setpieces embedded in the father-daughter drama and very detailed boardroom power struggles. Shit, she can even elegantly communicate the economic plight of one stiff-collared Europe trying to wield its will over another Europe that hasn’t changed in mindset since pre-Soviet times.
Ade’s style is notable in how willfully unobtrusive and supporting it is to the actors (literally) baring it all. It’s the type of film where you don’t recall seeing meticulously arranged background detail until you’re laughing out loud at the punchline it set up without your noticing.
Some punchlines are more obtrusive.
Toni Erdmann is a daunting 162 minutes, which, while well-paced, could use, say, a 20 minute painfully awkward masturbation scene trim here or there. It can also teeter precipitously on the maudlin line, arms flailing for balance, but thankfully not when it counts.
Toni Erdmann is a tonally bizarre, utterly hilarious, and quite emotionally affecting singular masterpiece. Good luck, remake team.
Toni Erdmann (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever someone inserts fake teeth
Take a Drink: for professional coldness
Take a Drink: for (often surprising) nudity
Take a Drink: for unexpected appearances
Take a Drink: for any mention or use of a cheese grater
Do a Shot: for petit fours