Without warning a father comes to visit his daughter abroad. He believes that she lost her humor and therefore surprises her with a rampage of jokes.
Toni Erdmann is an absurd Commedia dell’arte type character, intruding upon his daughter’s corporate lifestyle and causing her endless humiliation. Nevertheless, it is his presence that in turn exposes the absurdity of Ines’s business world. To her surprise, Erdmann is rapidly subsumed into Ines’s colleagues ritualistic swapping of business cards and displays of formality. When at a depressing nightclub topless businessmen gyrate to monotonous techno and pop bottles of champagne against a soft background of scantily clad women, Winfried and Ines sit at a distance from the action on opposite sofas, one wonders which world is truly the more ridiculous performance. It is in scenes like this that Ade can coldly critique the vacuous realities of globalisation that is such a marked departure from the gorgeous, lavish excesses of big businesses portrayed in American films – even those purportedly exposing their evils [ie. Wolf of Wall Street — Chris]
— Lamorna Ash (Another Gaze)