It’s a nauseated moan of remorse for the way Hollywood elites treat women.
This Friday was to have brought the release of Louis C.K.’s soul-searching new film I Love You, Daddy. Instead, after C.K. admitted to sexual misconduct, its distribution company, The Orchard, said it was dropping the film, for which it paid $5 million in September at the Toronto Film Festival.
That’s unfortunate, because I Love You Daddy deserves to be seen. As its subject is sexual misbehavior, it’s particularly relevant to the cultural moment and would have attracted a sizeable and engaged audience. Instead, because few have seen it, it’s being misrepresented as excuse-making, notably in the same New York Times story that reported C.K. had committed lewd acts in front of five women. The Times chided Daddy because its “characters appear to dismiss rumors of sexual predation” and added that the film’s “content has raised eyebrows. Given the rumors surrounding Louis C.K., the movie ‘plays like an ambiguous moral inventory of and excuse for everything that allows sexual predators to thrive: open secrets, toxic masculinity, and powerful people getting the benefit of the doubt,’ Joe Berkowitz wrote in Fast Company.”
While I can’t comment on the general validity of film reviews published in Fast Company as I was not previously aware that Fast Company published film reviews, this interpretation is rubbish. I Love You, Daddy is a nauseated moan of remorse for the way Hollywood elites treat women. In no way is it an “excuse.” It’s much more of an indictment and, in an oblique sense, a mea culpa.
Shot in a lush black and white suggesting Golden Age Hollywood, the film is about a disillusioned but hugely successful creator of TV shows, played by C.K., whose cinematic idol, 68-year-old Leslie Dixon (John Malkovich), is modeled on Woody Allen: He’s an eminent but loathsome director previously accused of child molestation who toys with women half a century younger. Though C.K. has described Allen as one of his avatars and once acted for Allen (in Blue Jasmine), he is in essence using the form of an Allen movie (Manhattan and Stardust Memories) to bash Allen on moral grounds. This is something of a breakthrough: As we have been reminded lately, famous Hollywood people are extremely averse to calling attention to one another’s moral failings as long as they fear consequences. C.K. should get credit for being one of the first major show-business figures to point the finger inside the charmed circle.
C.K.’s character, Glen Topher, is living in a New York City apartment the size of an airport terminal. Lounging in the background is his 17-year-old daughter, China (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is presented in such overtly sexual terms — she flounces around in a tiny bikini — that C.K. is sending up via exaggeration the way young women are today hypersexualized, especially in Hollywood. China might as well be wearing a label reading, “USDA Prime,” or maybe “Lolita 2017.”
The ironic use of a romantic, 1940s-style orchestral score highlights by its incongruity the sordid nature of Daddy’s milieu, and in keeping with its anti-rom-com feel, when Glen and China meet the illustrious Goodwin (Malkovich’s look suggests Ho Chi Minh visiting the Playboy Mansion), the filmmaker immediately starts hitting on the girl, who is one-fourth his age. Glen thinks (like everyone in Hollywood, going back forever) that great artists’ personal foibles are…
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