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Maren Ade
Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek
Writing Credits:
Maren Ade

A practical joking father tries to reconnect with his hard working daughter by creating an outrageous alter ego and posing as her CEO's life coach.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
German Dolby 5.1
English Audio Descriptive Service
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 163 min.
Price: $26.99
Release Date: 4/11/2017

• Audio Commentary with Producer Janine Jackowski and Actors Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek
• AFI Red Carpet/Q&A
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Toni Erdmann (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 12, 2017)

One of five nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 2016’s Toni Erdmann introduces us to Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), an aging hippie sort who teaches music and indulges in odd pranks.

Divorced from his wife, Winfried rarely sees his 30-something daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) because she took an executive gig in Bucharest. Depressed after his dog passes away, Winfried decides to visit Ines and rekindle their relationship.

Alas, Winfried finds it hard to blend with Ines’s business life, so this fizzles – until Winfried goes out on a limb. He creates an alter ego named “Toni Erdmann”, a so-called “life coach” who manages to get closer to Ines than plain old Winfried could.

All of that sounds pretty silly, to be honest, so I admit I went into Erdmann with a skeptical attitude. I realized that the film got lots of praise but the basic premise seemed so dopey that I had trouble with the notion it might work.

A glimpse of the synopsis didn’t help, mainly because I feared Winfried would turn into an utterly insufferable character. I could see the story unfold: happy free spirit teaches uptight daughter to loosen up and enjoy life.


To my very pleasant surprise, that narrative doesn’t develop – at least not in the manner I anticipated. Sure, Winfried uses unconventional methods to rekindle his relationship with Ines, but the film eschews trite techniques and paints a realistic picture.

This makes Erdmann involving and compelling – for a while, at least. The film’s first act works best, as the film builds the two lead characters well and depicts their strained relationship in a good way.

Many movies would give these roles a black and white feel, but Erdmann shows the positives and negatives of both Winfried and Ines. I like that it depicts their desires and conflicts in a manner that lacks cheap melodrama.

That said, as the movie progresses, I kinda sorta started to hope it’d give us some cheesy theatrics – anything to alleviate the sluggish pace. Erdmann goes perilously close to three hours, a running time that seems awfully long for a character drama like this.

Does a movie about a father/daughter relationship really need to veer into the length we expect of actual epics? No, and Erdmann suffers from its relative lack of concision, as we get too many superfluous elements on display.

Some of these stem from sequences that lack any obvious point at all, like a weird sexual encounter between Ines and her boyfriend. Maybe it boasts some significance that escapes me, but the segment feels like a pointless use of space, as I don’t’ think it furthers the plot or tells us anything interesting about the characters.

Other scenes have potential but simply don’t know when to quit, such as one in which “Toni” joins Ines and her friends at a nightclub. A little of this goes a long way, so the choice to continue this sequence for an extended period backfires, as viewer interest subsides well before the segment actually ends.

Again, I like the fact that Erdmann walks the subdued side of the street, and I enjoy the way in which it manages to develop the Winfried/Ines relationship in a gradual, natural manner. I just wish that it moved the story along at a quicker pace – there’s a lot of good material on display here but I can’t help but feel impatient with the sluggish manner in which the film moves.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C/ Bonus C

Toni Erdmann appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Within the parameters of SD-DVD, this became a solid presentation.

As long as I considered those constraints, sharpness looked fine. Inevitably some softness impacted wider shots, but most of the film offered nice accuracy and definition. Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t a problem, and I saw no edge haloes or print flaws.

Colors seemed low-key, with an emphasis on light teal. These choices felt less than exciting, but the DVD represented them adequately. Blacks provided reasonable depth, while shadows appeared fairly smooth. Ultimately, the image worked nice for its format.

I felt less impressed with the bland Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Erdmann, as it failed to make much of an impression. The soundfield gave us mild ambience at most, without much use of the various channels.

This meant it focused on the front speakers and didn’t bring us much in terms of scope. Even for an introspective character film, the soundscape seemed awfully flat and subdued.

Audio quality was fine. Speech came across as natural and concise, and effects demonstrated passable delineation. They had little to do but they seemed acceptable.

The film lacked any score, so we only got occasional snatches of source music. These came across with decent range. Everything here felt ordinary, so the audio added little to the presentation.

In terms of extras, we get an audio commentary with producer Janine Jackowski and actors Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, and other production areas.

Expect a wholly mediocre commentary. While the participants stay with the film and offer a decent array of thoughts, not much that I’d call memorable arises. We get a perfunctory look at the movie and nothing more.

Toni Erdmann at AFI runs 16 minutes, four seconds and mixes shots from the red carpet with a Q&A. We hear from Hüller, Simonischek, Jackowski, and actor Ingrid Bisu.

At the Q&A, we get notes about the director and what attracted them to the project, rehearsals and performances, and the film’s reception. This becomes a decent look at some aspects of the project, but it seems mostly superficial.

The disc opens with ads for Julieta, Elle, Land of Mine, Our Little Sister, The Meddler and Equity. We also find the trailer for Erdmann.

At its best, Toni Erdmann manages to tell a believable, natural look at family relationships, one that avoids the usual mawkish, melodramatic pitfalls. However, the movie runs far too long and doesn’t always use its running time well. The DVD brings us very good picture along with mediocre audio and bland supplements. Erdmann does enough right to merit a look but I wish it boasted better editing.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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