As a critic, I try to distance myself from an actor or filmmaker’s personal life because I find it unfair to punish all of the other cast and crew who worked tirelessly on a film, but the subject matter of the Louis C.K. co-written and directed “I Love You, Daddy” makes it damn near impossible. The Orchard (the studio behind the movie) hastily pulled it from theaters, and now I can see why they made this incredibly good move.
The film feels like a disturbing prophecy of Louis C.K.’s recent unmasking regarding his admitted abuse of power and sexual harassment of women. There’s an ugly, icky, and cringe-worthy undertone to the project now, its story existing in the heavy shadow of the director’s own scandal. Perhaps you can say that C.K. writes what he knows, with tone-deaf gags that objectify women, a character with a penchant for dating underage girls, and several lines encouraging people not to believe sexual predator rumors (yes, really). In what was likely meant to be a provocative, brutal look at the entertainment industry instead comes off and downright gross and appalling given what we now know about the man.
The story centers around television producer Glen (C.K.) and his spoiled teenage daughter China (Chloë Grace Moretz). Glen idolizes legendary film director (and reported pedophile) Leslie (John Malkovich), but he starts to worry when China insists on spending time with the man. The supporting cast is largely female, including Glen’s ex-wife Aura (Helen Hunt), ex-girlfriend Maggie (Pamela Adlon), movie star Grace (Rose Byrne), and his production partner Paula (Edie Falco). Charlie Day shows up as sarcastic actor Ralph and has one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire film (again, due to what we now know about C.K.’s behavior), as he pantomimes exactly what C.K. has admitted to doing in his office in front of women. Yuck.
The characters are insufferable, a gaggle of rich and privileged white people who crack jokes at the expense of Jews and African-Americans, and try to wring inappropriate laughs out of sexual harassment antics and animal cruelty. The film is packed with irritating insider Hollywood references too, making it the type of film that Hollywood types love: arty black and white cinematography, mentions of the business side of the entertainment industry, and the pet project of a (formerly) hot comedian. Oops.
Content aside, the film is technically a misfire. Instead of presenting an original vision, C.K. comes across as a wannabe Woody Allen with a copycat score and monochromatic cinematography. The film is poorly directed with sloppy camera movements too, like he took a master class in bad sitcom directing.
Misogyny rears its ugly head throughout, and there’s a particularly unpleasant riff on feminism and female empowerment that just plain makes me angry and makes my blood boil to think C.K. himself penned it. By the end of the film, Glenn eventually apologizes to all of the women in his life but for them (and for me), it’s far too late.