Louis C.K. has a new movie coming out. Or so I have read. Something about a guy returning to his horrible family, such that uncomfortable family awfuness/comedy ensues. Haven’t seen that one before. Reading this, I was reminded that Louis C.K. wrote/directed/edited and starred in a movie way back in 2017, one that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, was bought for 5 million, and was moments away from being released when Louis C.K. found himself in some rather well-publicized trouble.
His movie, I Love You, Daddy, was quickly dumped, the rights bought back by Louis C.K., and has never been released. Reviews like this one suggest why.
At the time, hearing about this new, arty movie he’d made, I was kinda miffed. Just because yet another artist turns out to be a creep, I can’t watch his movie? It’s not like he’s Harvey Weinstein, I found myself thinking. It’s not like watching his comedy over the years anyone could possibly be surprised the guy has some sexual hang-ups, and a deep need to tell us about them. But pulling his, um, nonsense on, effectively, co-workers, and screwing with their careers? Well… fuck that guy, I concluded.
And I forgot about his movie. Until reading about the new one. And I thought, surely this buried flick has to be out there somewhere. This is the age of information! You can’t hide an entire movie!
Indeed, you cannot. It’s out there to be torrented. So I grabbed it. And I watched it. And I’ve been trying to lift my jaw off the floor ever since.
I Love You, Daddy may be the most artistically and morally monstrous movie I have ever seen. And I’ve seen Turner & Hooch. It’s a nightmare from the first scene. For the first hour, I simply couldn’t believe this movie had been made, let alone screened, let alone bought, let alone released (almost!) to the public. If I had seen this prior to Louis’s downfall, and he’d asked me (we are supposing the existence of an alternate universe where such a conversation would take place), I would have said, “Release this movie and your career will be over. My advice? Take the negative and bury it under 100 feet of cement.”
This advice still stands.
Truly, it is a moral monstrosity, made by a man so drunk on ego, and so scared of women, that, whatever I once thought of Louis C.K. as an artist, my estimation of him as both an artist and a human being has plummeted to someplace well below zero. It makes Pootie Tang look like Citizen Kane (and I actually kinda enjoyed Pootie Tang! Go figure.)
I know, I know—don’t sugarcoat it, Butch, tell them how you really feel. What can I say? This movie made me mad.
First there’s the artistic angle, which is so baffling I’m at a loss. The movie is shot on 35mm black and white film, and is designed to resemble in look, feel, style, character, music, and story the work of Woody Allen, specifically Manhattan, with a dash of Stardust Memories. People have some opinions about Woody Allen these days, but one thing is certain: Those two movies, among a handful of others he made, are cinematic masterpieces. Why would someone like Louis C.K., in his first film as writer/director/star, ape another filmmaker? Why would he do it so shamelessly? And so very terribly? It’s the most blatant theft of Woody Allen’s work I’ve ever seen, and since Allen reinvented the romantic comedy with Annie Hall, he’s been ripped off by everybody. Yet nobody has ever had the gall to rip him off so—I don’t even know how to put it—obnoxiously, pretentiously, insultingly. This movie looks like a shitty sitcom dreamed it was High Art.
It plays as though Louis, concluding that he must be the greatest comedian and cinematic artist of the century, decided to say, “Hey, you think Woody Allen was so great? Hell, I could make a Woody Allen film just as good as Woody Allen.” Which, why on earth would you do that? How delusional would you have to be?
And that’s not even the worst of it.
The plot is astounding. Louis plays Glen, an asshole TV writer with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The women in his life, who are his ex-wife and his producer, shriek at him for being a complete asshole, and his one male friend is an over-the-top sexist monster. But, ya know, he’s a comedy TV actor, so it’s cool. Glen’s daughter, China (Chloë Grace Moretz), 17, is beautiful and, Glen tells us over and over again, a child who knows nothing and only wants to party. He lets her do whatever she wants, having no ability or interest in being a father.
It is then that famous, and old, movie director Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich) shows up. Glen reveres him, yet it’s rumored that Leslie is a child molester who obsesses over teenage girls. He meets China, creepily explains that, indeed, he’s obsessed with teenage girls, and invites her to France to hang out on his yacht. Glen thinks they might be screwing, and flips out.
Unbelievably, Louis C.K. actually sent this piece of shit script to Woody Allen asking him to play the Leslie Goodwin role. Allen said no. Although one must imagine what he actually said was, “Are you out of your fucking mind? NO!” What kind of twisted nutjob would offer this part to Woody Allen and, on top of that, tell him it would be good for his image? Who would make a blatant rip-off of an Allen movie, featuring a character meant to at least suggest Allen himself, which character is written as exactly the over-the-top sleazoid the most ardent Allen haters view him as?
Louis C.K. is both stealing Allen’s, well, everything, and at the same time stabbing him in the back, all the while imagining he’s doing Allen some kind of favor.
And doing so in a movie the point of which seems to have something to do with allowing Louis C.K. to flailingly attempt to excuse any of his own “rumored” improprieties by painting his female characters as either harpies or dummies, and lingering at length on Moretz’s bikini-clad body. Who but an idiot 17-year-old would even consider dating a man like Leslie Goodwin, Louis asks? When an accomplished actress (Rose Byrne) tries to explain the reality of women being unique individuals with unique needs and desires, and tells him she, at 17, had an affair with a much older man, Louis insists to her that she was raped.
Louis plays Glen as just a regular everyman with the same simple concerns as everybody, which worked well enough in his TV show Louie, where he’s presented as a sort of loveable schlub who’s just trying to make sense of a crazy world, but here he forgets to give us even a single reason to like Glen. Instead he assumes we’ll see Glen as he assumes we see Louis himself—a humble, loveable schlub. But what we see on screen is an oblivious asshole.
It’s impossible to watch this movie and not see the man behind the camera the same way.
So, Louis, if, god forbid, you’re reading this, you’ve so far made the right choice in shelving this movie. But just to be sure, I recommend, for the good of humankind, that you bury the negative under a 100 feet of cement. You’re welcome.