I LOVE YOU, DADDY: Louis C.K’s Career Suicide
Regardless of the context it’s currently being viewed in, Louis C.K’s I Love You, Daddy, is hard to be judged as anything other than one of the year’s most misguided cinematic endeavours. Due to extensive reports of sexual misconduct over the years finally being reported in the New York Times, followed by an admission and an apology from the man
Regardless of the context it’s currently being viewed in, Louis C.K’s I Love You, Daddy, is hard to be judged as anything other than one of the year’s most misguided cinematic endeavours. Due to extensive reports of sexual misconduct over the years finally being reported in the New York Times, followed by an admission and an apology from the man himself, distributors The Orchard pulled the plug on its planned release – and in the process, spared cinema audiences the experience of watching the first C.K project that can be called not just disappointing, but downright awful.
The Orchard sent over an awards screener in the post prior to the cancellation of the film’s release date, and shamefully, morbid curiosity at seeing this suddenly infamous piece of work (that may never see the light of day) got the better of me.
I Don’t Love You, Film
In what might be his worst performance to date, C.K stars as Glen Topher, a hotshot TV writer who has just got a new show on the air without writing a single page of the script. His daughter China (Chloe Grace Moretz) is about to turn 18 in the coming weeks – but already acts like an adult, with repeated solo trips to Florida for Spring Break, leading to Glen getting berated by everybody in his circle for being such a pushover to his 17 year old daughter.
While casting for his new show, he meets famed actress Grace Cullen (Rose Byrne), who invites him and his daughter over to her house for a celebrity filled party. There, they lock eyes on 68 year old director Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), a lifetime hero of Glen’s – and also, a rumoured child molester, who quickly takes an interest in China. To Glen’s horror, it begins to appear that the interest may be mutual.
On paper, this sounds like an incredibly timely satirical look at how Hollywood culture has allowed repeated abusers to keep working within the system, as well as an incisive exploration of how fans refuse to accept the allegations held against abusers in order to remain fans of their work with no extra baggage. Unfortunately, I Love You, Daddy has been written and directed by C.K, and many aspects of the film’s screenplay attempt to justify abusive behaviour – and not in a way inviting the audience to laugh at the bizarre views held by the characters.
In fact, if you strip away the comic relief provided by Charlie Day and Pamela Adlon’s supporting performances (both of which feel tonally ill fitting in this project), then I Love You, Daddy is predominantly a dull social issues melodrama, feeling more like a provocative spin on the typical Douglas Sirk picture than a thematic heir to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, which the black and white cinematography aims to convince you it is.
Accidentally, or intentionally, incriminating?
C.K’s strengths as a comedian largely stem from his brilliant skewering of social issues. Yet, approaching a topic that strays far too close the personal scandals of his own life proves to be a self-defeating exercise. The dialogue he gets his actors to recite (including a climactic monologue from a 17 year old girl about how “we’re all perverts”, shortly after she unrealistically confesses to having a crush on him) reminded me not of the problematic relationship in Allen’s Manhattan, but of OJ Simpson’s book “If I Did It”, where he outlines how he didn’t murder his ex wife, because he would have done it differently.
I Love You, Daddy is unintentionally incriminating in many regards, and yet instead of feeling provocative, it feels relentlessly dull. C.K has a skill for effectively adopting the aesthetics of forgotten pop culture; from the cheesy seventies sitcom vibe of HBO series Lucky Louie, to the Mike Leigh televisual plays that influenced his masterful Horace and Pete web series, he makes pieces of work that hark back to older works while still feeling contemporary. Here, he finally seems like a man out of time – and in the midst of an all encompassing sex scandal, the film never feels provocative despite its content, due to how utterly boring all the characters on screen are.
There’s no escaping how out of date this film feels, in spite of the timely subject. Mere weeks ago, C.K was universally lauded as a button pushing comedic genius – and even if there wasn’t any scandal to speak of, this film would put an end to those criticisms. Attempts at being “edgy” (the N word is pointlessly dropped in the first 10 minutes, and in one of the film’s other big “If I Did It” moments, Charlie Day mimics masturbating in front of a woman who enters C.K’s office mere moments later) feel utterly tiresome and head scratching, thrown in for shock value instead of serving some higher comedic purpose.
There’s also a creepy and lingering sexualisation of Moretz’ character, who is predominantly shown in a bathing suit in the film’s earlier stages – but everything wrong with the film pales in comparison to a lengthy monologue where Rose Byrne’s character waxes lyrical about the benefits of young women having sexual relationships with older men. Not only is this scene flabbergasting and presented as common sense, it did the one thing no film in its right mind should ever do: remind me of tiresome alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who has previously gone on the record defending relationships between “young boys” and older men.
Even in terms of style, C.K’s attempts to mimic melodrama aesthetics are misguided. He utilises the score by Robert Miller and Zachary Seman at the most awkward moments, which leaves every line reading sounding as stilted as what you’d hear in Tommy Wiseau’s filmography, no matter how strong the performances are (although only a supporting Edie Falco performance comes out of this with head held high). The surprisingly effective end credits nail the style perfectly – and if it isn’t damning with faint praise to say the end credits are the best part of this film, I don’t know what is.
I Love You, Daddy: Conclusion
As a fan of C.K’s work, I had glimmers of hope that there would be some forgotten masterpiece hidden inside a project engulfed by a scandal. Instead, the end result is actually worse than the reviews would lead me to believe – thematically tone deaf, stylistically inert and largely boring, I Love You, Daddy would be an awful film regardless of the news currently surrounding the writer/director. The world will be a better place if this film never sees the light of day.
Beyond I Love You, Daddy, which infamous unreleased films sound so bad, you can’t help but hope they see the light of day to watch for yourself? Tell us in the comments below!
I Love You, Daddy has no planned release date – unless you live in Denmark, where it’s still scheduled to be released on 25th January, at the time of writing. Don’t all rush to Copenhagen at once, guys. For all international release dates, see here.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.