The last time Louis C.K. directed a feature film was 2001’s Pootie Tang. So it was an era when few people outside of Chris Rock and some diehard standup enthusiasts even knew who C.K. was. Fifteen years later, C.K. is at the top of the comedy game, and he has made the type of masterful picture that might put him into serious consideration as a filmmaker after having already achieved similar success on television.
Shooting his new movie on black and white 35mm film, I Love You, Daddy enjoys a more cinematic look than his television series, but it still has the same type of humor C.K. brought to Louie and to his standup act. It’s quite an interesting contrast that works alarmingly well.
Louis plays Emmy-winning television writer Glen Topher, who is trying to prepare a new show for the fall season while dealing with his 17-year-old daughter China (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is exploring her own freedom from her father’s restraints. Not helping things is Charlie Day’s Ralph, Glenn’s ever-present best friend, or at least we assume that since he’s always around but never really doing anything but cracking jokes. He explains to Glen what happens in Florida during Spring Break, which is probably why China wants to go back.
Also in the mix is hot (and pregnant) actress Grace Cullen (Rose Byrne), who Glen thinks would be a great lead for his new show, but he then gets involved with her. To win points with his daughter, he takes China and her best friend Zasha (Ebonee Noel) to one of Grace’s party where they meet Glen’s own idol Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich). The two teen girls gossip about how Leslie is best known for his dalliances with very young actresses, something Grace doesn’t deny.
… It’s not hard to figure out where things are going from there as China starts hanging out with the “icky” Leslie and learning there’s more to him. Of course Glenn isn’t comfortable with this relationship at all, especially when Leslie invites his teen daughter to Paris with him.
Comparing the film to some of Woody Allen’s work would not be too far off-base, but what makes I Love You, Daddy so special is the way Louis C.K. is able to introduce all the characters into a story that could probably have been a cable television drama, but instead somehow maintains the feel of an old-time comedy with the way the story unfolds.
As an actor, C.K. isn’t going to suddenly surprise anyone with his lack of range, but he’s able to orchestrate his co-stars to some of their funniest performances. Charlie Day especially kills it in the movie with some of the funniest lines and scenes, taking the raunchiness of It’s Always Sunny and cranking it up a notch through C.K.’s enabling. Malkovich is also very funny in a completely different way, reminding us of how great he is at poking fun of himself in films like Being John Malkovich.
Other pivotal characters in the story include Edie Falco as Glen’s frustrated producing partner and Pamela Adlon as one of Glen’s ex-wives, who shows up at the most inopportune times to make matters worse. (Adlon is just as funny as Day, almost like his female counterpart.)
As with C.K.’s other work, the movie never worries about political-correctness, as Glen constantly tries to be the “cool Dad” to his daughter while mostly doing exactly the wrong thing at all times.
The scale of the film isn’t that big, although there are certainly moments that harken back to the bigger films from Hollywood’s heyday. C.K. fills the film with the type of sweeping orchestral score we might normally see in a movie from the ‘30s or ‘40s to further enhance the nostalgia he has for those older, simpler comedies.
The key is that I Love You, Daddy is very, very funny while dealing with things that any father with a daughter is eventually going to have to face, only C.K. handles that subject with the same fearless candor as he does the rest of his comedy.
I Love You, Daddy was picked up by The Orchard at the Toronto International Film Festival and will open in New York and LA on Nov. 17. It will expand on Dec. 1.
Read and download the full Den of Geek Special Edition magazine here!