I Love You, Daddy


I LOVE YOU, DADDY SPEC D: Louis C.K. U.S. 123 minutes. Sep 13, 5:30 pm, Ryerson Sep 17, 2:30 pm, Scotiabank 4. Rating: NN

An interesting way to talk feminism or any issues of equity in cinema is to film a contemporary-set story in a heavily retro style. Last year, Anna Biller explored female fantasies and the need some women feel to constant be in a relationship in The Love Witch, which she self-produced, shot on 35 mm and lovingly art-directed in the style of a campy, late 60s/early 70s horror.

With I Love You, Daddy, stand-up comic and filmmaker Louis C.K. transposes the tale of big-time TV exec Glen Topher (C.K.) grappling with sexual misconduct rumours that swirl around his filmmaking hero, Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich) into a luxe, 35 mm black-and-white world reminiscent of Howard Hawks classics. He also self-financed it.

That Goodwin might be a perv isn’t an issue for Topher – until his idol takes a shine to his attractive daughter China (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is on the cusp of turning 18 and already seems to be on permanent spring break. By pairing classic framing, impeccable production design and stately camera moves with snappy comic banter that touches on mansplaining, radical feminism and consent, C.K. forces viewers to consider these issues in the broader context of Hollywood’s history.

On his TV series Louie, C.K. has played against narrative conventions, and here he blows it up in grand fashion. Thus, it’s impossible to watch the film and not think about Roman Polanski, Woody Allen or even C.K. himself, who has been the subject of sexual harassment rumours for the past five years.

I Love You, Daddy is a beautiful film to drink in, with details and energy bursting from every frame. Moretz, Malkovich, Edie Falco (as Topher’s long-suffering production manager), Rose Byrne (as the lead actor in Topher’s TV series and his love interest) and Charlie Day (as his inappropriate assistant Ralph) all deliver in supporting roles that hinge on artful comic timing and deadpan pauses. The timely flip on a familiar story of a father learning to let go of his daughter is also scintillating and promising, but it never goes anywhere.

By representing male power in the most ostentatious way possible, C.K. both aggrandizes himself and challenges feminist ideas. But whose ideas exactly are being put through his aesthetic ringer?

Conveniently, there are no female characters in the movie that speak from the point of view of being assaulted or harassed. It’s all about innuendo and rumour, so the issue of sexual assault ultimately feels like an abstraction. And perhaps that is true to his experience.

C.K. shot I Love You, Daddy in a month and edited it in two. It might have been worth the trouble if, in the end, it felt like he was truly challenging his ideas.

Check out a recap of I Love You, Daddy’s TIFF premiere here.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie

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