‘Toni Erdmann’ is a poignant father-daughter comedy for our time

(CNN)The poignancy of a father-daughter relationship is hardly a new path for cinema to tread, but it has been captured with rare vim and vigor in German comedy “Toni Erdmann.”

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A critical hit since its premiere at Cannes last year, “Toni Erdmann” is in the running for Best Foreign Language Film at Sunday’s Golden Globes and a frontrunner in the same category for next month’s Oscars. Success at either would be a win for unconventional comedy.

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Playing out in a succession of awkward scenarios, Ade and her editing team revel in toying with the audience, letting the camera linger until each scene ripens into cringe-inducing perfection. Things escalate of course, culminating in an impromptu rendition of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All — a literal high note, the song’s lyrics about childhood and self-love foreshadowing the comedy’s farcical denouement.
Marrying slapstick and aching pathos, Simonischek and Huller’s performances make the ridiculous look sublime — landing laughs and tears in one-two punches, liberally and with aplomb. It’s all deeply funny and deeply sad, Toni sweetly offers some bitter truths about life, while Ade’s script provides depth without veering towards didacticism.
One gets the feeling, like the film itself, “Toni Erdmann’s” success could prove bittersweet. Hollywood’s proclivity for remakes is unabated,and awards season success might have studios wondering what they could do with a film that thus far has flown under the radar of American audiences. Admittedly, an actor like John Malkovich in Simonischek’s role would be very watchable.
It’s all hypothetical of course, but Ade’s touching film should be allowed to percolate for a while longer. Uncomfortable but nevertheless uproarious, “Toni Erdmann” may not be the comedy we asked for, but it’s the one we needed.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/07/entertainment/toni-erdmann-review/index.html

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