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Toni Erdmann is a 2016 film directed by Maren Ade. It was a co-production of Germany and Austria.

Winfried Conradi is a music teacher who lives in Aachen. He is a cheerful boisterous fellow who likes to make jokes and has a penchant for wearing silly disguises, most frequently a garish set of false teeth. When his dog dies, a depressed Winifred goes off to Bucharest unannounced to see his semi-estranged daughter Ines.

It doesn't go well. Ines is a striking contrast to her shaggy, goofy father: she is a tightly-wound career woman. She's further stressed-out by the fact that her company, a consulting firm, is in the middle of negotiations to extend a contract with a Romanian oil company. Ines doesn't take it well when Winfried shows up at her place of business wearing the silly false teeth. She invites her father to a reception at the American embassy in Bucharest, but gets further irritated when he jokes about getting a replacement daughter because she's too busy.

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Tensions boil over when Ines oversleeps, misses some phone calls, and unfairly blames her dad. Winfried, feeling unwelcome, leaves. But that night, as Ines is unwinding with some of her friends at a club, Winfred pops up again, wearing the false teeth and a black wig, identifying himself as "Toni Erdmann", a life coach. Ines grudgingly plays along as "Toni" follows her around, meeting her work friends, meeting her boyfriend Tim. Will father and daughter get past their issues and make peace with each other?


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Tropes:

  • Agony of the Feet: Ines smashes her foot while folding the flip-out bed in her apartment. Later she's seen whimpering in pain as she has to lance a huge blood blister on her big toe.
  • Alter-Ego Acting: After being rejected by his daughter, Winfried assumes the persona of "Toni Erdmann", a big brash outrageous personality. Ines finds herself forced to play along. Director Maren Ade specifically cited Andy Kaufman and his famous alter ego "Tony Clifton" as inspiration.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Ines regards her father this way. He's pretty scruffy in appearance, he likes silly pranks, and he sometimes makes uncomfortable jokes. These tend to embarrass Ines the career-minded, driven businesswoman.
  • Amicable Exes: Winfried and his ex-wife it seems, as he's welcomed and given a place at dinner when he stops by to visit her and her husband.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Winfried has good English and Ines the international businesswoman is fluent, so they sometimes slip from German into English and back. When Winfried chats with Ines's assistant Anca this is even more extreme, as Anca in particular slips from German to English in the middle of a sentence. Winfried has to stop her to ask what "performance" means.
  • Call-Back: Ines cracks that her father has no interests outside of fart cushions, and he mutters that he doesn't even own a fart cushion. Naturally, when Winfried meets her later as "Toni Erdmann", he has a fart cushion, which he uses to make a loud fart noise, embarrassing Ines as she talks with a business contact.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ines finally snaps at her father and gives him a tongue-lashing, ironically over something that wasn't even his fault (her oversleeping). She mocks him for having no interest in anything other than fart cushions and says "I know men your age who have ambition." It's after this that he leaves her apartment, only to come back as Toni Erdmann.
  • Capitalism Is Bad:
    • A theme of the film. Ines's company is in Romania, a quarter-century after the fall of communism. Her consulting firm is running an outsourcing program that is going to throw a lot of Romanians off of work. Ines at one point acknowledges the inherent evil of this, saying that the boss of the oil company wants to lay off workers but has brought her consulting firm in so he can blame them. In another scene Ines throws a fit at a spa after getting what she regards as an inadequate massage, humiliating the waiter and embarrassing her father who is there with her.
    • One scene has Ines and the other corporate bigwigs commiserating about how many workers to fire. She looks at the window and notices that the steel-and-glass building she's in directly abuts a shantytown of tin shacks.
  • Casual Kink: After Ines decides she doesn't feel like sex with Tim, she says that he can jerk off onto a petit four (a little dessert pastry) and she'll eat it. He takes her up on it and she keeps her promise. It's treated as no big deal.
  • Chained Heat: Briefly. Winfried sees his daughter doing likes of coke outside a nightclub. He doesn't say anything about it until the next morning, when he arrives in Toni Erdmann guise and says he'll "arrest her for drugs". He proceeds to handcuff her to him with real cuffs...and he's forgotten the key. And Ines has to go to a business meeting. They have to go to some friends of hers to get the lock picked, which means Winfried has to accompany her when she goes straight to the meeting.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: After Ines finds out that their boss knows about her affair with Tim and made a crass comment about how Tim's going to "fuck the edge out of her", she loses her enthusiasm for what was about to be sex. Instead she tells him to jerk off...and she'll eat it. He does and she does.
  • Dramedy: A mix of comedy (goofy dad making fart jokes and wearing silly false teeth) and drama (father and daughter with a relationship that has grown distant).
  • Erotic Eating: Tim tries to invoke this at a club party by holding a bottle of champagne from his crotch as he fills Ines's glass. She seems irritated rather than excited by this.
  • Everybody Knew Already: A depressed Wilfried admits to the Romanian lady he charmed at the party that he is not, in fact, the German ambassador. She gently says that she already knew, and that she is acquainted with the real German ambassador to Romania.
  • Godiva Hair: Seen from Anca during the "naked party".
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: Wilfried badgers Ines into singing "The Greatest Love of All" (which after all is about parents and children) at a party. Subverted in that, after delivering a surprisingly spirited performance of the song, she stalks out without saying anything else to him.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: From Ines's boyfriend Tim during their deeply strange A Date with Rosie Palms sex scene, and also from her boss, who surprises her by being willing to join her "naked party".
  • Naked People Are Funny: Ines has struggled into a tight dress for her birthday party but realizes she can't get her underwear on. She attempts to hike up her dress to get her underwear but can't do it. Finally she seems to snap and out of sheer frustration rips the dress off, and answers the door for her first guess Steph wearing only pantyhose. Then she shucks off the hose and announces that it's a naked party. The weirdest birthday party ever ensues. Steph bails as does Ines's boyfriend Tim, but her assistant Anca and her boss are both willing to get nude.
  • Naughty by Night: It turns out that Ines isn't quite as intense and fixated on business as she acts like in the daytime. She's into kinky sex with her boyfriend, she likes to party at nightclubs, and she and her friends snort cocaine.
  • Office Romance: Ines isn't all business, as it turns out; she's dating Tim, a coworker at the consulting firm.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: When Ines's American friend Steph shows up for the birthday party and finds Ines wearing nothing but a pair of pantyhose, she says, as gently as possible, "Do you want me to help you choose something?". Then when the doorbell rings again she suggests that she can get the doorbell while Ines gets dressed. When Ines says no, this is a naked party, Steph leaves.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Winfried is the red (shaggy appearance, cheerful demeanor, given to silly jokes and pranks, little ambition) and Ines is the blue (cool, buttoned-down, serious, career driven).
  • Right Behind Me: Ines complains to her friends at the bar about the sucky weekend she just had: her father showed up unannounced looking for emotional support and judging her for her life as a career woman. Immediately after this the burly man sitting next to them at the bar turns around, and Ines realizes it's her father.
  • Stealth Insult: When Anca asks how Ines rates her job performance, Ines says she's "shown a lot of improvement."
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