I LOVE YOU, DADDY

By MATT ZOLLER SEITZ / Posted on November 15, 2017

By the time you read this review, Louis C.K.’s semi-satirical showbiz comedy “I Love You, Daddy” will have been consigned to the same pop culture memory hole that contains Jerry Lewis’ concentration camp drama “The Day the Clown Cried.” The official release date was November 17, 2017. Orchard Films pulled it from the release schedule this morning, November 10, 2017, a day after the New York Times published a story confirming previously unsourced rumors that, over the course of many years, C.K. had exposed himself to women. It’s as bad as you’ve heard. It was that bad even before the news broke. But the news makes the experience of seeing it, and thinking about it, even more unsettling.

The allegations had been bubbling for years under the surface of the mainstream media, which isn’t fond of getting sued for libel. C.K. became a critical darling for his FX series “Louie,” a groundbreaking quasi-autobiographical comedy-drama. Many critics, myself included, decided—foolishly, in retrospect—to withhold judgment of his guilt or innocence of the allegations and treat the show’s scenarios as dramatic abstractions, like anything else you’d see on a TV series or in a movie. When you see this film—as some of you will, out of grim curiosity or historic interest—you might be as appalled as I was when I saw it a couple of weeks before its distributor pulled it from release and realized he’d been playing the entire world for a bunch of suckers.

If there’s one thing we know for sure about people who are accused of indecent exposure, it’s that the thrill of getting away with it is the true source of their power. In retrospect, much of “Louie” now plays like a dry run for what he’d do on the big screen with “I Love You, Daddy.” The show exposes its true self deftly enough that you aren’t sure you saw what you saw. This film leaves the raincoat open while its owner makes eye contact and dares you to deny what’s happening. My notes consist of a single sentence: “It’s like he’s rubbing it in our faces.”

It seems astonishingly brazen, under the circumstances, that of all the stories C.K. could have chosen to tell, he chose this one. “I Love You, Daddy” is about a Louis C.K.-like TV auteur, played by Louis C.K., who has an affair with the star of one of his TV shows (Rose Byrne), a woman he cast partly because he was sexually attracted to her. At the same time, his daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz), a minor who just turned 17, is starting an affair with a sixty-something film director (John Malkovich) who is legendary for his skill and productivity but also notorious for making films about older men having affairs with much younger women and doing the same thing in real life. The film director is modeled, of course, on Woody Allen, one of C.K.’s heroes, a great American filmmaker who has also been accused of child molestation and who, point of fact, married his ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow’s daughter, a few years after they began an affair under Farrow’s roof. (She was 19, he was about 50.)