'Toni Erdmann' Combines Hilarity And Poignancy: BUST Review

Sandra Hüller

Written and directed by Maren Ade
Out December 25
Rating: 3/5

Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a German woman who works in Bucharest and is all business from her natty suits to her icy demeanor. She can hardly stand to be around her family for more than a brief jaunt between business trips. But when her weird, prankster father Winfried (Peter Simonischek) sniffs out that Ines is less than the uber-successful businesswoman she presents to her family, he descends upon her in Bucharest, creates a new persona (a shady grifter named Toni Erdmann), and insinuates himself into her everyday life. He sees firsthand the bullshit she has to deal with—like the casual, maddening sexism she encounters at work—and tries to hide his own unhappiness with quirky jokes while Ines attempts to work through her issues.


Most of the comedy in Toni Erdmann is grating. But the final third (the film is 162 minutes, in German, English, and Romanian, with English subtitles) had me howling with laughter. Just below the surface of even the most hilarious scenes is the poignancy of human vulnerability. And while the story is sometimes straight-up weird—in a wonderful way—its humor cuts close to the bone. -Jenni Miller


Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

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This article originally appeared in the December/January 2017 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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