I Love You, Daddy, 2017.
Written and Directed by Louis C.K.
Starring Louis C.K., Chloe Grace Moretz, John Malkovich, Rose Byrne, Charlie Day, Pamela Adlon, Edie Falco, Helen Hunt, Ebonee Noel, Dan Puck, and Albert Brooks.
When a successful television writer’s daughter becomes the interest of an aging filmmaker with an appalling past, he becomes worried about how to handle the situation.
Life delivers comeuppance in unexpectedly fitting ways, as within hours of digital links for Louis C.K.’s debut film making its way into the email inboxes of many critics, the expose detailing numerous alleged instances of sexual misconduct from the writer/director/star made headlines, but this is not a think piece pondering morality and whether we should find forgiveness or cut him off from Hollywood similar to Kevin Spacey, it’s a review of I Love You, Daddy. However, making things more difficult is the blunt hypocrisy of the on-screen father Louis C.K. portrays versus the fairly incriminating evidence indicating his glaring and hideous personality flaws.
Nevertheless, the famed comedian is in front of the camera as a television writer/producer hotshot named Glen currently in the crunch-time process of whipping up a second show slated for release later that year in Autumn, which essentially comes to a full stop when his 17-year-old daughter China (Chloe Grace Moretz shining in the role as pampered and clueless) decides to leave her mom (Helen Hunt) and live with him for a while. Their relationship together is dandy, although former flame Maggie (longtime Louis C.K. collaborator Pamela Adlon) insists that Glen needs to start disciplining his spoiled-rich daughter instead of giving puppy-eyed agreements to her wishes of Spring Break vacations to Florida alone and consistently desiring taking time off from her senior year of high school. More alarmingly, China is uncertain of what she wants to do with her future, one day bringing up feminist ideals to daddy who becomes immediately perplexed, declaring that those who lay down in front of the sun all day and live like a princess don’t have a strong understanding of the movement.
Trouble in paradise expands as Glen’s recently cast star for his upcoming series, pregnant Grace (Rose Byrne), who just so happens to be China’s favorite actress, invites the two to a glamorous Hollywood party that Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich as a sage-like, philosophical, deep-thinking revered director with a rumored history of affection for teenage girls including one account of molestation) also happens to be attending. Although he is Glen’s idol (proclaiming him to be the best filmmaker of the past 30 years), he is also aware of the unsavory accusations (coincidentally, Louis C.K. also had a negative image of sexual perversion swirling around him before the truth came out) causing his stomach to churn when China is quickly intrigued conversing with him. The topic of feminism is once again brought up, going down much better as the older yet wiser Leslie listens and also throws out questions of his own on the subject.
Obviously, considering Leslie is in his 60s I Love You, Daddy enters some uncomfortable comedic territory (a realm that, given the current climate of Hollywood, some audiences might not be prepared to find humorous), but also delicately navigates taboo themes with raw emotion. Surprisingly, some characters are okay with the multi-generational age difference between the budding friendship (that keep in mind has not gone sexual, but is Glen’s greatest fear and one that has strong probability), whereas Glen is totally freaked out. Fascinatingly, there is a superbly written dialogue exchange where a character talks about willingly having sexual relations with an older man at the age of 15, staunchly describing the relationship as normal and healthy. Glen’s only response: “I’m sorry, you were raped”.
The issue with all of this is that Glen, played by Louis C.K. is presented as the only man with a moral compass in Hollywood. Outside of iconic filmmakers pursuing underage girls and female actors condoning similar relationships, Glen is often surrounded by his friend Ralph (the always hyper and hilarious Charlie Day) who regularly says the grossest and most misogynistic things. To him, the question of whether or not Leslie is a child molester, manipulator, sexual exploiter, or whatever term you want to use, is a laughing matter to be casually asked about upfront. He’s a vulgar Hollywood friend that only amplifies Glen’s fears, although admittedly, his lines are hilarious and perfectly delivered. Much credit also goes to the strong support system of women played by veteran actors Pamela Adlon and Edie Falco who try to keep Glen sane during these times.
Aesthetically, the decision to evoke classical Hollywood style with monochrome visuals and a sweeping orchestral score feels unnecessary and distracting; the movie is set in 2017 so what is the point in going down that route other than personal creative satisfaction? Visuals should always service and add to the story, which sadly is not the case here. Don’t let that be interpreted as a statement that the film is ugly, as it’s actually quite pretty and makes use of those black-and-white visuals, containing a lovely score to boot. However, it’s all style and no substance.
With that said, I Love You, Daddy is much in line with the awkward situational humor to be expected from Louis C.K. It doesn’t necessarily have the answers to the questions it presents, but it certainly brings an interesting discussion to the table regarding dating, parenting, and the hedonistic Hollywood scene. I don’t know what the future holds for Louis C.K., but his crimes don’t negate his debut feature being provocative, funny, timely, terrifically acted by an ensemble cast, and all-around entertaining.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com