Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Lucy Russell

Toni Erdmann (2016)

Even if they’re a little goofy, they’re still your family.

Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is an old goof-ball, who gets by on teaching music at a local high school and generally playing pranks on all of those around him, one especially involving a pair of fake-teeth that he casually brings around in his pocket and puts on from time-to-time. Why? Well, no one really knows – they all just sort of take it as a thing that he does and they leave it at that. His estranged daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller), returns home from wherever she’s been, and gets his hopes up for them catching up and spending some time together. All his hopes and dreams are dashed once she informs him that she has to head out for Bucharest in the morning, where her firm is currently making all sorts of moves to help better improve the work-area there. Seeing as an opportunity for them to fully hang out together, Winifried surprises Ines, but not being himself – instead, he’s playing “Toni Erdmann”, the German Ambassador, who has fake-teeth and Tommy Wiseau-like hair. Initially, this bothers the hell out of Ines because it may ruin all of the business she has to do, but eventually, she kind of gives in and sees just how far her dad can keep this joke up.

Belt it, girl. But not too loud, or else the suits may hear ya.

Belt it, girl. But not too loud, or else the suits may hear ya.

Not too long, I was talking about Blood In Blood Out and how it’s near three-hour run-time wasn’t all that justified. Sure, there was some good stuff in it that could have definitely made it into a feature-flick, but not nearly enough to pad-out a whole three-hour flick. At first, I had the same feeling with Toni Erdmann; while it is a shorter movie by about thirty-minutes, it’s still a two-and-a-half-hour long comedy about, of all things, fathers, daughters, family and yeah, globalization.

Sounds like something you’d want to spend two-and-a-half-hours watching, right?

Well, here’s the funny thing: I felt the same way. For the longest time, Toni Erdmann just felt too slow, too meandering, and too formulaic to really work; that first hour has some bright and promising ideas, but it also seemed like writer/director Maren Ade also wanted to take way too much of her time developing them, even if they don’t really go anywhere. It sort of made me think of all the mumblecore flicks of yesteryear, but instead of blabbering teenagers, here, we just got a bunch of Germans going on and on about business and not giving us any context to it all.

But then, about halfway through, it all clicks. The plot does eventually come in, the characters start to become interesting, and oh yeah, all of that business-jumble begins to make some sense and at least matter to the overall plot. See, what’s interesting about Toni Erdmann and Ade’s writing, is that there’s always a build-up. What that is, is never exactly clear, but slowly and surely, we start to get an idea of where the movie’s going, only to then have it pulled from underneath us, time and time again.

In a way, Toni Erdmann is a dark comedy about family and love and all of that sentimental junk, but the movie doesn’t really play that hand too often; it could have easily gone in deep with the father-daughter relationship and had us be a witness to a lot of shouting matches, but nope, that doesn’t happen. Ade seems much smarter than that, in that she knows that sometimes, the best way to build tension, even in the smallest breaths imaginable, is to not really try hard to build-up anything at all – it’s better to just let it simmer.

Which may sound boring, I know, but it works.

Toni Erdmann is the rare movie in which a great deal of the comedy is so subtle, you may have to check once or twice to see if you forgot anything, until at the very end, all of the big laughs come in with reckless abandon. Take, for instance, a near-20 minute sequence that starts off weird and continues to get more and more ridiculous as it goes along, staying hilarious, until the very end of it and all of a sudden, there’s something sweet and heartwarming to it all. There’s a few other scenes like this, which is surprising, because you’d think that a trick like that would only work once, but time and time again, Ade finds ways to surprise and go against convention.

Daddy may have just seen the Room.

Daddy may have just seen the Room.

Without her around, man, this remake better be good.

Speaking of that supposed-remake, as great and as talented as Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig are, it’s going to be a little hard to see Winifried and Ines, respectively, played differently than by Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller. Both are so perfectly fit for these well-drawn and three-dimensional characters, that you almost wonder if they were written for each one of them in mind. Simonischek is bright, charming and likable, even when it seems like he’s sort of making stuff up on the spot, whereas Hüller has to play it straight and narrow, but gets some opportunities to shine and show some personality and she works quite well with it.

Together, the two create a perfect chemistry that constantly keeps this movie exciting. You know that there’s something sad between them two, but rather than it being some long lost secret of heartbreak and hurt, it’s more that they just both outgrew one another; you still get a sense of the great history they spent together, which makes some of their more melancholy and quiet scenes, pretty damn sad. But Ade keeps it smart in that she gives us a father-daughter relationship that isn’t too obvious, has enough mystery going for it, and doesn’t really try to say who the worst person between the two is.

After all, they could both be horrible. Who knows?

Consensus: Even with the long run-time, Toni Erdmann sorts itself out as a solid mixture of comedy, drama, and character-stuff that makes it well worth the sit-down.

8 / 10

See it. You'll understand soon enough.

See it. You’ll understand soon enough.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


Sightseers (2013)

Sort of like if Mickey and Mallory went on a road-trip. Well, a different one anyway.

Two lovebirds, Chris and Tina (Steve Oram and Alicia Lowe), decide that it’s time to get away for a little and have some fun. Chris then plans out this whole trip for the two to take, hopefully have fun on, and explore the country-side. Oh, and they might also do some killing as well. Just in case the moment ever arises.

Director Ben Wheatley is starting to become a voice to be heard in the world of movies. Kill List was a shock of a movie that never ceased it’s turning wheels, and still has me wondering about it, even until this very same day. It’s just that type of movie that messes with your mind, long after you’ve seen it, which is why you should definitely go out, find it, and watch it if you haven’t done so already. That said, this movie had a lot of promise by the way this is Wheatley’s second film and shows that the guy loves blending human-relationships, comedy, and horror, altogether in one, neat package. But what you may not notice until checking out the credits, this isn’t written by Wheatley and is instead done by it’s two leading stars. First mistake right there.

Even though Wheatley took some risky and strange steps with Kill List, you still have to give the guy credit for at least going down the roads that he did, and not making any apologies for it. It was always interesting to see where he could go next with his story, and what genre he was going to mess around with when he felt like it. This movie just felt like the same genre, the same joke, the same happenings, the whole way through. There’s nothing really crazy going on here other than the fact that these two lovers are out on their own, little trip of sight-seeing and killing random people. Funny for maybe the first or second time, but after that: it becomes a bore.

Well now we see who wears the pants in that relationship...

Well now we see who wears the pants in that relationship…

However, Oram and Lowe don’t really seem to get the nods right off the bat. They decide to keep on hammering and hammering away with the same joke that these two, ordinary people would actually spend a whole trip going from place-to-place, killing people whenever they saw fit. It gets old, real quick, and feels like the movie is at a lost for ideas. If anything, the movie did make me laugh with it’s monstrous uses of irony, and finding new and original ways to use it here and there, but even that got to be repetitive as well. Nothing new seems to happen, other than what person they are going to kill next and even then you can pin-point how, who, what, where, and when.

Not good for any movie, let alone one of the horror/black comedy-genre.

Honestly, I wish I could go on and on about this movie and say how obvious it got to a certain-point where I just wanted somebody to slap me with a fish and get it over with already, but I’m sort of at a lost for words. Wheatley still shows his love and compassion for making things terribly-uneasy with the audience, whether it’s watching a person be killed, or the thought of someone being killed. But then that idea starts to get skewered as you begin to see these characters taking out all of their rage and frustration out on people who seem to sort of deserve it. Not saying any person deserves to die for saying or doing something that may not be the nicest-gesture in the whole, entire world, but if Wheatley really wanted to ruffle some feathers, he would have gone for the jugular and given us victims that were the least-bit sympathetic. Everybody here just seem like mean people that had it coming to them some time soon. Not my thoughts. Apparently it’s the movies. Just by the looks of it.

Then, of course, there’s the two leading-peoples themselves: Steve Oram and Alicia Lowe. Since this is THEIR script, aka, their bread and butter, it only feels right that they make it work to the best of each of their abilities, which it does. Oram is funny as Chris, the sort of dude that seems all cool, calm, and relatively-charming on the outside, but very deep, dark, and sinister on the in. The dude never seems like a bad-enough guy to really go full-throttle with all of these murderous-acts of violence, but at least he has fun with it. Low also has fun with her role as Tina, for the sole-sake that she’s just a nut, and is marveling it. She gets to do some pretty strange-o stuff, and pulls it off well, even when it seems like this girl is too nutty to be taken seriously. But then again, you never know what is real, and what isn’t real with this movie. Wheatley leaves it all up to the viewer and I appreciated that aspect, just not the whole film.

Now THAT'S love.

Now that’s love.

Together, Oram and Lowe are good as it seems as if they’ve been best-buddies/eff-buddies for a long time now, as the chemistry between them is natural. They’re weird, odd, and very scary in the ways that they could do anything they wanted, whenever they wanted, but I wanted more from these characters. For the most part, I never felt like I knew any of them, other than the fact that they just liked to act weird and kill people. That was basically it. It never seems like the movie itself was ever keen on taking them seriously enough, to ever give them any real personalities, with real feelings, real emotions, and real ideas in their heads. I know killing people is a real idea, but I didn’t feel like I was watching real people, thinking about a real idea. They seemed more like they were destined for the big-screen. No surprise that that’s exactly where they ended-up.

Consensus: Wheatley still shows his attention to detail, but working on a script that wasn’t made by him, makes Sightseers feel like a bit of a disappointment considering it’s the same, old joke; again and again with new spins on it every once and awhile, but not enough to fully have me in a daze of fun and disbelief.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Yup, they did that too.

Yup, they did that too.