When You Are Laughing
My child bride rarely laughs out loud. Sometimes when I dare to undress with the lights on her smirk turns into hysterical mirth. But usually good manners prevail. However laugh long and with heart she did when we watched the German Oscar contender Toni Erdmann. Generational Gap meets Barry Humphreys in The Office covers some of the angles. This is first and foremost an intelligent, adult and very funny film.
The tragedy of globalisation, the self rectitude of the so called professional classes and the total bull shit which we call corporate life are gently but mercilessly satired, skewered and in the end shown to be the emperors’ clothes. Spoiler alert-best take them off!
But there is also the break down of the relationship between the prankster retired dad and his ambitious daughter. Here we are on familiar ground. The careerist workaholic ,(its usually a white male) is converted by the woman, dog, gay, child, Greek, coloured guy, Forest Gump whoever into something more human.
That is the conflict between the super achievers who are paid enormous amounts and the rest of us. The moral is always ,they may have fine clothes , expense accounts and power but they have lost the real meaning. Which is, the relationships, which is where the shambling, rambling dad pops up, oh god this sounds so corny. Sometimes its the outsiders who bring the space men back to earth, sometimes its the dysfunctional adult kids, but in this case its Grumps. Typically Hollywood is already calling for a remake.
So a well trod theme is played out in Toni Erdmann, but its not a corny film. In fact it has many totally original and subtle scenes. Will the ice queen crumble, how much comedy of embarrassment can we take. The film is a tad too long but a good German film is always a collector’s item. And this is a very good film .
Talking of having a laugh,I haven’t laughed out loud so much as when reading the Booker Prize winner Sell Out by Paul Beatty. Black laughing at black. A wonderful antidote for those who despair of race relations .