Review: Toni Erdmann is a German comedy about people with no sense of humour

Peter Simonischek in Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann. Picture: Sony Pictures Classics

Peter Simonischek in Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann. Picture: Sony Pictures Classics - Credit: SonyPicturesClassics

Writer-director Maren Ade's film is the red hot favourite to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar but is it evidence of a willfully out of touch elite?

Toni Erdmann (15)

**

Toni Erdmann is an epic German comedy about people with no sense of humour.

Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a joyless overachieving consultant working in Bucharest on outsourcing and cutting jobs.


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Her embarrassing father (Peter Simonischek) is a man for whom the phrase 'I'm joking' has become something of a mantra, muttered sheepishly as yet another jest or prank falls flat.

In an attempt to reconnect with his daughter he drops in on her in Bucharest, and invents a comedy alter ego Toni Erdmann, with a wig, false teeth and a whoopee cushion to try and bring some fun back into her life.

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The Toni Erdmann alter ego looks like James Brolin after rummaging through Dick Emery's old wardrobe, or George Harrison Marks in Come Play With Me, the famous 70s British sex comedy that was both fiercely unsexy and unfunny.

This film offers up a similar kind of grim anti-comedy. It is deliberately scrappy, unfocused and disorganized. Comic scenes are set up and then not followed through on.

It's a grim vision of an utterly broken and utterly corrupt Europe, where everybody is miserable and nobody benefits – much like the audience I watched Toni Erdmann with.

Who knows, maybe Toni Erdmann has them guffawing through their sauerkraut down the Rhine, but the cinema I saw it in was entirely unmirthed – though perhaps the others were Lolling on the inside.

Writer-director Maren Ade's film is the red hot favourite to win Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards after it swept the board at the European Film Awards, collecting the top five prizes.

Evidence of a willfully out of touch and self satisfied elite? It is the kind of film that can make a good man turn Ukip.

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