If anything of value emerged from the career-killing isolation imposed on Louis C.K., it is the good fortune of saving audiences from having to pay to witness his horrendous feature “I Love You Daddy,” which was yanked out of circulation by its distributor as news of the non-funnyman’s sexual peccadilloes came to light.
As the production’s director, producer and co-writer as well as its star, C.K. appears to have studied a number of Woody Allen films and convinced himself that he could duplicate the results. Sadly, he replicates all of Allen’s vices and none of his virtues. In terms of style, “I Love You, Daddy” looks and sounds like a weak facsimile of “Manhattan,” complete with crisp black-and-white 35mm cinematography capturing the New York landscape and a music score that tries (but fails) to emulate the richness of Gershwin.
In terms of substance, however, the film has a mean-spirited personality that resembles the bitter films that Allen churned out in the late- and post-Mia Farrow period. In this production, C.K. is Glen Topher, an Emmy-winning Jewish New York television writer who lives in a luxurious apartment where he caters to every whim of his 17-year-old daughter China (played by Chloë Grace Moretz, doing her own riff on Sue Lyon’s Lolita in her bikini-clad entrance). Topher channels Allen, complete with dark-rimmed eyeglasses and a Tony Roberts-level sidekick (Charlie Day, as a foul-mouthed comic). And not unlike Allen during his dismal period, he is surrounded by stereotypical women: the shrew (Helen Hunt as his angry ex-wife), the unpleasant professional (Edie Falco as his easy-to-anger writing partner), the wisecracking observer to his foibles (Pamela Adlon as his ex) and the elusive shiksa (Rose Byrne as an A-list actress whose agent is pushing her to be in Topher’s new series).
The Allen angle is pursued further with late-60s John Malkovich as a film director who becomes intrigued by underage China. This director also has a reputation of being a child molester. The ick-factor here is intense, with Malkovich playing his role with too much focus for comfort. Between C.K.’ character excessive indulgence (he allows the girl to skip school and use his private jet to make a return trip to Florida one week after a Sunshine State spring break foray) and Malkovich’s character taking advantage of the seemingly clueless jail-bait, “I Love You, Daddy” is an emotionally uncomfortable experience.
It is also devoid of laughs. C.K. and co-writer Vernon Chatman dumped a surplus of foul language into the dialogue, which drives down the intellectual value to low-grade puerility. And anyone who was never a fan of C.K.’s work will feel confirmation in witnessing his painful inability to draw a smile from any gesture, glance or line reading.
The fate of “I Love You, Daddy” is unclear – it was scheduled to open on November 17, but its release has been cancelled and it is possible it will remain unseen until the ongoing controversy surrounding C.K. is resolved. To be cruel, let’s hope for a lengthy stretch of pariah status for the star, if only to keep this bad movie out of sight.