Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is a retired music teacher who passes the time playing corny jokes and generally acting like a goofball, to the puzzlement of everyone around him. His daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a serious-minded and high-powered corporate consultant who travels the world for her job. In an attempt to bring some joy back to Ines’s life, Winfried surprises her with a visit while she’s in Romania working on a tricky business deal. Needless to say, wacky shenanigans and complications ensue.
From a setup that sounds like something out of a bad Hollywood comedy, German director Maren Ade’s third feature has emerged as one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year. People just keep falling over themselves trying to praise this movie. And now you can certainly add my voice to the chorus – Toni Erdmann is really great.
While the ultimate endgame of the film – a father and daughter reconnecting after being separated by the demands of life – may not be anything terribly new, the route that Ade takes to get there is always interesting. Just when you think you have a handle on the narrative, she’ll throw something at you from way out in left field that only ends up further deepening the relationships. Sandra Hüller seems primed for international stardom here, juggling all sorts of moods and situations as the continually stressed out Ines.
And it all culminates in one of the most bizarrely funny party scenes in recent memory.