Each year, The Omega reviews the films presented at the Kamloops Film Festival. The festival came to a close on March 11.
A comedy of errors that roots itself with a strong dose of business politics, politeness, and cringe, Toni Erdmann is the tale of a father who attempts to reconnect with his busy daughter. Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller are Wini and Ines, respectively, a father and daughter who seem to be unable to find anything in common but are thrust together by Wini’s alternate personality of fake gross-teethed international businessman Toni Erdmann.
The film follows as Mr. Erdmann intrudes on his daughter’s attempt to secure business leads in Romania, eventually leading to situations as realistic as sitting in an actual board meeting to all-out, absurdist anything-goes spectacles. It is the odd pacing of very slow and realistic proceedings to bonkers moments that allow for some extremely funny moments, especially once things begin to line up near the end of the film, but never extend themselves further to overcome a looming sense of boredom. While the performances overall seem realistic and convey a sense of understanding, it isn’t until those final bonkers moments where any catharsis is given (but dang if Hüller doesn’t give it her all then).
While I do appreciate the fact that the film is trying to tackle comedy within the confines of something relatively realistic, the runtime does become a serious issue. At almost three hours the middle portion of the film grinds to a halt. Any sense of momentum is stalled by Ines’ boardroom negotiations and attempt to move up in her company. It also never feels like the absurdity doesn’t truly get its fair amount in the film. For a film about awkward encounters (which it does have in spades), the actual comedy of the film is undercut by an overemphasis on the fairly straightforward and rudimentary business politics. Yet the film definitely still retains its own rhythm and voice which will help once the (bad) idea of an American remake finally starts to film.