Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is a divorced German schoolteacher with a knack for 7th-grade-performances, wacky humour and bizarre costumes, irritating his environment and especially his family. When Ines Conradi (Sandra Hüller), his childless thirty-something daughter, who fiercely pushes her career as a management consultant in Bucharest, returns home for her birthday, two worlds collide. The situation deteriorates when Winfried, who consideres Ines to be deeply unhappy, follows her to Romania. And it gets even worse, when he then invents „Toni Erdmann“, a “life coach” with silly fake teeth and a wig, introducing himself to the consultancy crowd (they take him for real) to get close to his estranged child again.
There are many, many obvious reasons why “Toni” should win an Oscar. Screenplay, terrific acting etc. etc. But I’ll name some different reasons why I’d give it an Oscar and why you should go and see it. Toni knows a thing or two about timing, dialogues and zeitgeist. Trust me.
It is, äh, “English”-speaking
The world Ines and her fellow consultancy friends, superiors and assistants live in, is English-speaking. Germans absent-mindedly praise their Romanian assistants in English, Germans talk to Germans in English. Toni explains his coaching strategies in English. The entire film is a friendly satire on how the business world makes use of its lingua franca. To hear and watch that is highly entertaining. Probably even more, if you’re a native speaker, ähem. So, members of the Academy, I bet you WILL enjoy this Germanglish, just give it a try.
The film is also a sensitive portrayal of a multi-layered father-daughter-relationship. The storyline may sound like a cliché to some of you (unhappy career woman is rescued by her warm-hearted dad), but it’s not. Winfried’s „Toni Erdmann“ is a rebel in just as many ways as he is helpless and lost. Winfred’s post-68s-ideals clash with Ines’ capitalist cynicism, his playfulness with her world’s conformity. But Ines develops her own humour and superpowers. The film lets her turn the tables more than once and sympathizes with both characters equally.
It is truely European!