I was intrigued. When I saw the trailer for I Love You, Daddy, I couldn’t help but wonder: What exactly is Louis C.K. trying to do here?
Was the film’s plot—in which a successful television writer grows increasingly concerned as his teenage daughter becomes romantically involved with a much older man—some kind of bait-and-switch? What was Louis C.K. trying to get at by arguing the pros and cons of predatory May/December relationships? And even from the trailer, the allusions to Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan were obvious—right down to the fact that Louis C.K. shot his movie in black and white and on 35mm.
As of yesterday, I Love You, Daddy was scheduled to open in Portland on November 22. Having acquired an advance screener for review purposes, the Mercury planned to review the film then.
But this morning—following the New York Times story in which numerous women accused Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct—I Love You, Daddy’s distributor, The Orchard, sent a brief email to media outlets, which read, “The Orchard will not be moving forward with the release of I Love You, Daddy.” Meanwhile, Louis C.K. released a statement regarding the allegations against him, writing, “These stories are true.”
Since I’m not sure if you’ll ever see I Love You, Daddy—or if it will ever even be released—I’ll just tell you what’s up.
You’re not missing much.
The whole movie feels like Louis C.K. is trying to come up with a solution to the problem of older and more powerful people taking advantage of younger and less powerful people. And therein lies the problem, since he doesn’t seem to know how to deal with these issues.
I Love You, Daddy’s three key performances—from Louis C.K., Chloë Grace Moretz, and John Malkovich—are deft and filled with surprising charm, especially considering it’s a movie about the lives of the rich and famous. But the screenplay (which Louis C.K. cowrote with Vernon Chatman) begins to grate at approximately the 12-minute mark, with an hour and 51 minutes of the film left to go.
It grates more and more, in part because it feels out-of-touch (the script repeatedly makes use of both the N-word and the word “retarded”), and in part because it just feels clunky: There are awkward voiceover dubs, disorienting hard cuts, and Paul Koestner’s black-and-white cinematography seems to be utilized without any real artistry in mind.
But the subject matter is where things get weird: The whole movie feels like Louis C.K. is trying to come up with a solution to the problem of older and more powerful people taking advantage of younger and less powerful people. And therein lies the problem, since he doesn’t seem to know how to deal with these issues. I Love You, Daddy doesn’t really have anything insightful to impart.
In Manhattan, Allen played a 42-year-old television writer dating a 17-year-old. In 2017, that film seems, in some respects, self-aware—perhaps its defining line of dialogue focuses on “the dignifying of one’s own psychological and sexual hang-ups by attaching them to these grandiose philosophical issues.” But if that’s the key quote from Manhattan, the key quote from I Love You, Daddy is less self-reflective. “I didn’t know exactly what you were going for,” Malkovich’s character tells Louis C.K.’s. “I couldn’t see the intent.”
But this emphasis on Louis C.K.’s confused film, and how it compares to Allen’s attempts at obfuscation, misses the point, and the importance, of what’s happening now, in the real world.
Movies can address their creators' failings, and they can ask complicated questions that don't have answers. But it's worth nothing that while Moretz is good in I Love You, Daddy, the story isn't told from her character's perspective, and none of the film's other characters ever explicitly spell out why it would be bad for the relationship she's in to go forward. I get the impression that's because Louis C.K. doesn't know why, either.