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Why the ‘Toni Erdmann’ remake is probably a bad idea

Yesterday, news broke that Jack Nicholson is coming out of quasi-retirement to star in an American remake of Toni Erdmann that will co-star Kristen Wiig and be produced by Adam McKay. Over at the LA Times, Steven Zeitchik has a breakdown of why he thinks this new film is ill-advised:

Right off the bat, the setting is a problem. The sub-surface tension of “Toni” concerns Western Europeans working in Eastern Europe (Ines is involved a Romanian deal for her multinational); it’s a plot line that illuminates so much about modern European capitalism; when Ines comments on a giant mall built for no one, it hits home with anyone who’s ever witnessed the false promise of globalism across the Continent.  Sure, you can imagine Nicholson’s version as some American bigwig in a hardscrabble foreign place too. But it loses that specificity […]

Maybe the biggest problem, though, is the people making this movie. Which director can ably take on such a mix of tones; who can find slapstick comedy and poignant humanism in the same film, sometimes even in the same scene? Jim Brooks in his heyday, maybe. Lawrence Kasdan, possibly. But who actively working today? David O. Russell is the closest name I can come up with. And I’m not even sure about him. (Another remote possibility, someone with an outside shot of pulling it off, is McKay himself. Perhaps knowing the foolishness of the errand, he’s keeping a producerial arm’s length, at least for the moment.)

(See also: Zeitchik’s feature on the making of Erdmann)

I’m mostly in agreement with Zeitchik here. I saw Toni Erdmann and loved it, but it’s a film I’d describe as incredibly specific. It is specific in its setting, specific in its tone, and even specific in certain aspects of its plot, which has the protagonist attempting to pull off a very challenging management consulting gig in a foreign country.

I think Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig would actually be wonderful as the main characters in a film with a similar plot. But it’d be so different from the original that I’m not sure if the result would be recognizably Toni Erdmann.