'I Love You, Daddy'
From the moment it was announced that Louis C.K. had made a secret movie over the summer that would play at TIFF, it was safe to say the film wouldn’t exactly be a safe bit of light entertainment or a ‘Pootie Tang’ sequel (even if the latter would’ve been welcome). Even so, what he made is pretty remarkable. ‘I Love You, Daddy’ is a deeply personal, strange and resonant comedy about the exact sort of subject matter you wouldn’t think this guy would tackle at this time.
In addition to writing and directing, Louis C.K. stars as Glen Topher, a TV writer struggling through his latest project (as well as whether or not to enter a relationship with that show’s leading lady, played by Rose Byrne), but struggling even more with his daughter, China (Chloe Moretz). She loves him (saying it constantly), but has grown up in such luxury and privilege that she has no direction. Glen knows it’s his fault on some level; he just hasn’t quiet figured out how to deal with that yet. But he’s got bigger issues at the moment. China has suddenly become enamored with a legendary filmmaker (John Malkovich) whom Glen reveres. The artist also has a notorious reputation regarding young women, even accusations of child abuse. While Glen is dealing with the “Respect the art not the artist” debate, his daughter is directly involved, which makes it a bit trickier.
It goes without saying that Woody Allen is a subtext subject of the movie (not to mention recent scandals of his own that C.K. has denied). The whole film is even shot to look and feel like ‘Manhattan’ (beautifully on 35mm, by the way; Louis has turned into a hell of a director over the years). The ultimate conclusion is that you’ll never really know. It’s implied but unclear what Malkovich’s character does, but more importantly he’s such a fascinating and brilliant character with a non-judgmental and adventurous approach to life that it’s hard not to like the guy, especially when played by such a charismatic actor. That theme runs deeper. No one ever really knows anyone here. Assumptions are made that are frequently wrong. Everyone has their own perspective. Just like life, no one quite agrees. It’s very smartly conceived and deliberately ambiguous.
The film is also hilarious. Louis C.K. is one of the great comedians of this or any time, so laughs are a given. The combination of human insight and craft makes ‘I Love You, Daddy’ so special. The film deliberately hits on touchy issues thoughtfully and without concrete answers. It’s a provocation designed to spark debate. In C.K.’s typical broken way, a very sweet and human movie emerges that shows how we’re all just struggling to get by in our own corner of the sandbox, never as good or as bad as others see us. He might be channeling Woody at times, but C.K. has a very distinctly thoughtful voice as a filmmaker that translates his comedy beautifully to the screen. This is an entertaining and insightful movie filled with big questions that have no answers. No one else would dare to touch this stuff given his own controversies. Maybe someday that’ll make this movie a gross artifact in retrospect. For now, it’s just a damn fine Louis C.K. film and hopefully far from his last.
And yes, it’s even better than ‘Pootie Tang’. Somehow that’s possible.