The wry, subversive and exhilarating Tony Erdmann – written, produced and directed by Maren Ade – is a bitingly funny work despite the bleak and poignant underlying layers. And, its disarming deadpan humour and satirical jabs at the widespread malaise, banality and existential torpor at the heart of corporate bombast, can make one laugh and wince in equal measures. At the center of this delightful film – set in Bucharest which is patronized as “up and coming”, in a globalized, borderless Europe – lies an absorbing and idiosyncratic father-daughter relationship that was as absurdly dysfunctional as it was strangely affecting. Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a senior consultant in a management consultancy firm; she’s heavily betting on a high value assignment where the strategy is to propose heavy outsourcing which is bound to cause significant job cuts; she leads an emotionally divested life marked by highfalutin presentations, professional grandstanding, pleasing clients at the cost of one’s self-respect, vacuous affairs, and tolerating systemic sexism on account of being a careerist woman in an exclusive white man’s world, as aptly reflected by her coldly elegant apartment and the need to always appear sizzling despite the severe stress within. Her dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) – natural-born anarchist, incorrigible prankster, outlandish in his choice of attires and appearances, oblivious of phony etiquettes, and possessing a sense of old-world empathy – couldn’t be more antithetical to her. Hence, when this divorced music teacher decides to make a surprise visit to meet her daughter, the results are spectacularly disruptive – more so when he dons an absurdly farcical alter-ego, presenting himself as a freelance lifestyle coach. Both Hüller and Simonischek were terrific in capturing their uproarious contrasts and their subtly evolving seriocomic chemistry.
Director: Maren Ade
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Social Satire