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1/23/18

I LOVE YOU, DADDY - REVIEW


Pulled from release amidst the sexual misconduct claims that recently surfaced against Louis C.K., I Love You, Daddy, co-written and directed by the disgraced comedian, remains mostly unseen and probably will stay that way for a bit. Did we miss out on a gem or a misguided train wreck?

The answer is arguably a bit of both but the horrible timing for this film still lands it firmly in the latter category. The film follows successful Hollywood producer Glen Topher, played by Louis C.K., who freaks out when he suspects that his 17 year-old daughter China (Chloë Grace Moretz) might be having a relationship with respected film director Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), who is much, much older. Parallels between Leslie and Woody Allen are tough to ignore as we're told that Leslie has a reputation for liking young girls and is rumoured to be a pedophile. A film criticising Allen's alleged behaviour while being a Manhattan pastiche would have certainly been hypocritical coming from C.K., yet it could have had some value. This is not I Love You, Daddy's goal, however, as it, instead, aims to explore controversial themes in a purposely vague way before sweeping everything under the rug at the last minute thereby having its cake and eating it too. There are problematic elements to this movie from the icky central "romance" to the Lolita-style sexualisation of China and its take on show business, feminism and abuse but it covers its tracks so carefully that, had the film been released 10 years prior, it would have still started a conversation, for sure, but it would have just been another festival-friendly risqué character study.

The relationship between China and Leslie is kept ambiguous enough that you won't instantly throw up in your bowl of cereal but it's still very much unpleasant to watch. The film wants to make you uncomfortable, thereby putting you in Glen's shoes, but, ultimately, it also wants you to accept Leslie as a charmingly pervy dude who is just good friends with China and somehow helped her grow up and... that it's fine? The problem is it's not fine: there's nothing charming about Leslie and how he flirts with underage girls or Glen's passive worries about him hanging around his daughter or Rose Byrne's actress' rejection of Glen's perfectly legitimate concerns. Whether it does so on purpose or not, the film seems to be making fun of the way that Glen lets his daughter almost get molested while also claiming it's not that bad because she soon turns 18 so, because now she's legally able to make her own decisions, who cares? With the exception of China and Pamela Adlon's character, everyone in the film is pretty dislikable so for the film to end by essentially telling us there was nothing to worry about is a bit insulting. Louis C.K. made a great-looking film with talented actors who all give solid performances but, like with some of Woody Allen's recent output, all it does is clumsily dig a deeper hole for C.K. and leave a bad taste in your mouth.

For those curious few who may be worried that we were denied a masterpiece from Louis C.K., the good news is that we weren't. If the goal was to emulate Manhattan, mission accomplished but this movie's twisted morals only underline the most unremarkable and problematic aspects of both directors plus its supposedly sweet father/daughter relationship is just not convincing.

No great loss.

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