Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) loves to clown around much to the annoyance of everyone including his ex-wife, and even the postman. This suburban German ex-schoolteacher now semi-retired with just a few reluctant pupils learning piano left, his life revolves around his elderly dog and his equally old mother who lives next door. When both of them die, he decides to pay a surprise visit to his only daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) a rather cold-fish fiercely ambitious business consultant who works in Bucharest.
Father and daughter are far from close, and Ines bitterly resents Winifried turning up unannounced outside her office building. She reluctantly agrees to host him for a few days and drags himself a few corporate functions where he continues to play pranks, which to her utter annoyance actually wins him the friendship of a client who has been albeit avoiding her.
This only leads to a confrontation between Ines and her father, and she literally throws him out of her apartment and tells him to go back home to Germany. That however is the last thing he is going to do and in his somewhat outrageous guise of Toni Erdmann a bewigged ostentatious businessman, he keeps turning up wherever Ines is and worms his way into the lives of her friends and some of her business colleagues too. When hsi meddling starts to take effect, it strikes home to her people that prefer to do business with a woman when she is accompanied by a man, even if he is a buffoon like his father
The whole rather hilarious comedy bordering on a farce comes to a climax at a birthday party when the normally uptight Ines finally literally bares all and shows she has in fact inherited some of her father’s rebellious spirit, and that they may in fact, have more in common than either of them thought.
This rather delightful oddball of a movie is the third feature film from writer/director Maren Ade and is a great take on how an estranged dysfunctional relationship can actually be salvaged sometimes even if it can never be really normalized. Simoischek, the hefty veteran Austrian actor plays Winifried/Toni with great abandonment and energy and with such perfect comic timing that he is a sheer joy to watch. Likewise Hüller is pitch perfect as the unhappy Ines who has gambled on finding success in a career as her way of being complete only to discover she is not going to get what she wants on her terms.
Coming in at 162 minutes, which is way too long, is the only drawback for an otherwise perfect film, which stands an excellent chance of winning the Best Foreign Picture Oscar that it has been nominated for.