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Toni Erdmann is a slow-moving, outlandish comedy from director Maren Ade.

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Toni Erdmann
Written by
Maren Ade
Directed by
Maren Ade
Starring
Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek
Genre
Comedy
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2017

What is it that drives the practical joker to slip the whoopee cushion into the chair?

This lengthy, slow-moving yet utterly outlandish comedy never really answers that question as it turns on the embarrassment of an uptight young German businesswoman named Ines when she is paid a surprise visit by her yuckster of a father.

A management consultant in Bucharest busy trying to justify massive layoffs in the Romanian oil fields, she is archetypically ambitious and humourless while her father is a shambling and genial retiree who doesn't seem to know what do with himself unless he's pretending to be an ex-con, a lifestyle consultant or a German ambassador.

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As director Maren Ade builds one extended set piece after another, you will gradually spy her brilliant fusion of form and function: the languid pacing reproduces in the audience the feeling of Ines's excruciating discomfort and desire to see her father shuffle out of the scene.

Still, Ade keeps going long after she has both made her point, and made her point about how she's making it. Her complete refusal to consider Hollywood's brisk pacing and pat endings does rather give you hope for the future of European film.

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