A critical darling since last Cannes – when many people seemed genuinely offended that it didn’t pick up any awards – I still fail to see the funny side of this lengthy and painful German “comedy”.
I’ve been in audiences that guffaw the whole way through – there’s nothing more irritating that that, when you’re sat there stony-faced. But the lead character here is frankly one of the most infuriating creations I’ve ever seen – he makes David Brent look like Ryan Gosling.
A retired teacher (Peter Simonischek) and inveterate practical joker adopts a comic character called Toni Erdmann, with false teeth and stupid Ken Dodd wig, to go and cheer up his careerist daughter who he thinks is too unhappy working for a corporation doing business in Romania.
I can’t believe she doesn’t throw him off the roof. He’s a ridiculous oaf and their relationship failed to interest me. The comedy of cringe is a delicate and difficult beast, and this doesn’t execute the balancing act for me, even when there’s a sort of “French farce”-style party where everyone turns up naked – I’ve seen an audience practically lose their minds with hilarity at this scene and while I get that there’s a skilful choreography to it, it’s not my thing, in the way that I get Archaos or Stomp or those slick plays about Peter Pan Going Wrong but would never want to sit through them surrounded by people laughing their little socks off.
I totally see what Maren Ade was trying to do and I have a lasting admiration for the actress Sandra Huller’s performance, but this one just wasn’t for me. Maybe I’m a misery. But please don’t send round my Dad in silly teeth to cheer me up.