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With Jim Sabatini

Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann
Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek

Rated: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: December 25, 2016 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

Definitely one of the finest foreign-language films of the year is Maren Ade's one of an impish father desperately trying to reconnect with his yuppie daughter.

Toni Erdmann is a rare German comedy, a long one indeed, that winds through the follies and prosaicisms of life in unfettered, inquiring, confrontational fashion with a no-nonsense documentary-like realism.

Serious businesswoman on temporary assignment to Bucharest for a global oil consortium Ines (Sandra Huller) has to deal with German-based prankster shaggy-coiffed, aging music teacher father Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who likes to shake up strangers with a funny accent and faux teeth for the weekend. It's uncomfortable for them as dad has lost his dog but is still on rather good terms with his ex-wife (Irene Rindje).

The tale hinges on Winfried's choice to stay with his daughter and be her titular life-coach donning a wig as she navigates the diplomatic/business scene. Ade stages all of this and what ensues in canny subversive strokes to allow for present world contemplation. Even the way Europe is headed economically.

The tension of professional/personal lives, among loved ones, detachment in today's workplace, and the distaff place in a changing corporate climate is evident as uproarious instances come in carnal candor or large bear overall traversing the roadways. Finding meaning through humiliation in the unexpected odd central relationship allows sharp performances to emerge in what essentially is a two-handler, evocative in its own simple-looking way.

A stellar Simonischek is the catalyst to underline the connection between wealth and happiness, and the obviously more deadpan Huller plays off him so well to realize how important it is to hold on to jocularity when the opportunity arises. Even in an emotionally penetrating sequence when Ines does a memorable rendition of a hit Whitney Houston power ballad.

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Toni Erdmann        B+                     B+ 

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