Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    The opening scene gives you fair warning. The camera lingers on the front door of a house. And lingers. A mailman arrives with a package. He rings. And rings. The door opens and Mr. Conradi appears (actor Peter Simonischek). He makes jokes about the package being for his brother, who defuses bombs. He calls into the house for his brother, then goes inside. We wait with the postman. And wait. The brother shows up, but it's Conradi in a wig and fake teeth. Eventually the scene ends. But the movie will continue like this for almost three(!) hours.

    Conradi is in almost every scene, and he is a grotesque, ill-favored old man who treats people as if they were pawns in some grand comedy he's living. His main target is his daughter, a hard-working executive stationed in Bucharest (most of the film was shot in Romania). He treats no one with respect, especially not her, and he has no dignity.

    Almost every scene would benefit from being shortened, some by up to half. Whole scenes (e.g., the handcuffing, the sperm-splattered pastries) could have been cut without losing any of the point-- which by the way, is anything but fresh territory. Zorba the Greek leapt to mind as a similarly themed movie. In two words: enjoy life. Zorba, however, is a charming character. Mr. Conradi/Toni Erdmann is not.

    The multiple-award-winning actress Sandra Huller holds the film together, and the scene, toward the end, when she belts out Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All," is a triumph of performance over production. That's pretty much it (and I'm not forgetting her prolonged nude scene). Without her presence, I would have walked out. This is a grossly over-rated film, and a painfully over-long one.