I Love You, Daddy & Louis CK’s Love of Himself

Essay, Film Review

I Love You, Daddy is a 2017 film written, directed, and starring comedian Louis CK. It was pulled from distribution one week before it was to debut, after the New York Times revealed that Louie had masturbated in front of several women. Not all at the same time; he wasn’t putting on kinky shows at bachelorette parties. He committed lewd acts several times over the years he worked as a stand up comic. He would bring young female comics to his hotel room, take off all his clothes, and go to town on his ugly Mexican churro.

Louis CK published an apology, but that did not hold back the consequences. HBO, FX, TBS and Netflix pulled his material from their networks and cut ties. Louie stayed out of the public eye for almost a year. He dipped his toe back into comedy in August of 2018, with performances at least two New York clubs, and then embarked on a tour of the US and Europe—but I’ll write about that at the end. It looks like Louis CK is back, so I want to recap I Love You, Daddy, the movie that was exiled with him.


The Movie

The first thing you will notice about I Love You, Daddy is that it is in black-and-white, which no movie since Young Frankenstein should be—without good reason, at least. There was a movie from last year called The Lighthouse, which was not only filmed in black-and-white, but also in a square TV aspect ratio. The movie was really good (I didn’t get it, but will say I did to sound smart), and being filmed that way worked for that particular movie because it made it appear as claustrophobic as its story. And then there was Kevin Smith, who filmed Clerks in black-and-white because he was young and could not afford color film.

But Louie CK is rich, and made I Love You, Daddy in black-and-white because he is pretentious. Also, Woody Allen’s Manhattan is black-and-white, and Louie’s idea of creativity is to ripoff Woody Allen. Many episodes of Louie had an esoteric Woody Allen tone, particularly in the later seasons. I can see why Louis CK looks up to Woody Allen. As a pervert himself, Louis CK must admire famous perverts.

The next thing you will notice about I Love You, Daddy is that Louie’s character gets berated by every woman in his life in the first 15 minutes. It begins with an argument between him and his ex-wife, played by Helen Hunt, because he has more money than her, which means their daughter wants to live with him. This makes Louie a bad person, somehow.

Then, Louie’s 17-year-old daughter, China, (Chloë Grace Moretz) is mad because he won’t allow her to use his private airplane to fly off to Florida so she can enjoy a second spring break. Yes, she’s going for Spring Break #2. Louie tells her she is spoiled, but then calls to make his plane available to her.

By the way, the first time we see China, she is in a white bikini, reminiscent of the iconic introduction of the titular character in Lolita. I bet Louis CK meant to do that. He probably edged for hours comparing himself to Kubrick.

This is followed by his ex-girlfriend, Maggie (Pamela Aldon) telling him he is a bad father. Louie tells her that she has no business getting involved. Maggie says, “You suck” and swears at him. Then, she kicks him in the balls until he apologizes. Not all of that happened exactly, but I captured the spirit of the scene.

Finally, Louie’s production partner, played by Edie Falco, chews him out because the new TV series he sold to a network will mean more work for her, and Louie didn’t think about that, did he? I don’t understand why she is upset over having to work on a TV series when she is a TV producer. She should congratulate Louie for making them more money. Also, she cries about a horse (must be menopause).

That’s how the movie begins. There were scenes like that in Louie and Horace & Pete, other Louis CK projects. Maybe Louis CK gets pleasure from women castigating him. Perhaps it tickles the same fetish for humiliation that led him to jerk off in front of women. Oh God, Louie was probably wanking while writing the script! Eew.

I should mention that Louis CK plays a television producer who had his second series picked up by a network. One of the guys from Always Sunny in Philadelphia is in the movie. I like Always Sunny but can’t tell any of the men apart because they all have dark hair and sometimes a beard. I couldn’t even say how many men are in the cast. I know there is Danny Devito, and two to five other guys. I watch Always Sunny like a lion watching a zebra herd who can’t tell how many zebra are huddled together. Whoever this actor is, his character is named Ralph and he is Louie’s famous writing partner.

Anyway, the network has Louie meet an an actress, Grace, to see if she would be a good fit for his new show. Grace is from Australian, where they call what Louis CK does to himself “hunting the crocodile”, “polishing the boomerang”, or “waltzing without Matilda”. Louie finds himself smitten with Grace. However, he owes another actress the role after he pulled out his penis in front of her. Grace sees a photo of China and asks if she is Louie’s girlfriend. Louie informs her it’s his daughter. That’s probably some dumb foreshadowing.

Later, at home, Louie and China watch a movie Grace was in. In it, she kills a man after showing him her breasts, which I think would be rude. Louie is disturbed and thinks this movie is even worse than Horace & Pete. China explains that it’s a feminist message. Louie disagrees, saying that is a terrible way to express feminism, and China should not even identify as a feminist when she is a rich kid who had everything handed to her by her father. If that were the case, the population of feminists in America would have to shrink by 70%. All that would be left would be homeless lesbians and men who pretend to be feminists to get away with rape.

Louie then goes to his balcony to phone Grace. He wants to jack off during the conversation, but stops himself. Grace is a special lady, so he decides to wait for the right moment to masturbate in front of her in person. Grace invites Louie and his daughter to a fancy party where all sorts of show business people will attend. Shit, Alex Jones warned me about these! This is a horror movie and China is going to be eaten!

It’s not that bad, really. They attend, and one of the first famous people they spot is the infamous director, Leslie Goodwin, played by John Malkovich. China tells her dad that Leslie is a child molester, but Louie says that’s just a rumor and Leslie is “probably the greatest writer and filmmaker in the last 30 years”. Ah I see! Leslie is a stand-in for Woody Allen!

You know what Louis CK should have done? Instead of John Malkovich, he should have gotten Jason Alexander and had him behave like George Constanza in the early years of Seinfeld, when he would copy Woody Allen’s mannerisms. It would have made the movie funny.

Anyway, Grace introduces Louie and China to Leslie. Louie is nervous to be in the presence of his hero. The two have a private conversation. Leslie doesn’t think much that Louie works in TV, and Louie stumbles over his words and can’t decide whether to take out his penis. Leslie asks about China (not the country, the girl he wants to bone).

Later on, Leslie talks to Chin and impresses her with his basic knowledge of feminism. China says this encounter is weird because her dad is in love with Leslie, and tells him, “I don’t like you.” But Leslie totally charms his way out of those molestation allegations.

The next day at his office, Louie gets his hair cut. Which is a waste of time because he is bald. You made a hair dresser come all the way to where you work when you have nothing to maintain. Stop acting like you need the services of barber like the rest of us. Just grab some scissors, and maybe a mirror, and cut your own hair…what’s left. Don’t worry about how it will look. No one is going to care how neat or messy the back of your head is. Stay in your lane.

Anyway, Louie is excited because he will have lunch with Leslie Goodwin today. Ralph tells Louie to ask if Leslie really did touch that kid. But then Louie gets a phone call and is told the lunch is canceled. Right then, a happy China enters the office. China tells them she was out with Leslie, which shocks Louie. She was shopping at Barney’s (a high end department store that doesn’t like to serve black people) and found Leslie watching girls who were shopping for clothes. Leslie explained that there is a difference between perverts and himself, which China found intellectual. She tried on swimsuits for him, and they had a super pretentious date at the park. Louie is appalled. Ralph laughs.

Later, Louie is livid when informed that China will travel to Paris with Leslie. China tells her dad it will be fine because other concubines will be with them. Louie forbids her from going, but China says he can’t stop her and is only mad he wasn’t invited. Which is probably true. I think in real life, Louie CK would totally offer up his daughter to befriend Woody Allen.

So China travels with Leslie, where they have a merry time indeed. There is a group with Leslie, people who would probably be in the Manson Family were this the ‘60s. On a yacht, China canoodles with a young man while Leslie types on a typewriter. Back in New York, Louie also took out his typewriter. Louis CK was way too proud of himself for coming up with this dumb connection between his character and Leslie.

Later, Louie is in bed with Grace and worried about his daughter. Grace assures him that this “is a positive thing for China”. She then says that 17 is just as good as 18, and China is better off in the care of an old man than a teen boy. Of course, none of this makes Louie feel better. “You don’t know Leslie,” says Grace, “and you don’t really know her.” Grace informs Louie that she dated a 50-year-old man when she was 15, but won’t tell him if it was Leslie. Louie is so upset he leaves without taking his penis out of his boxer shorts.

Leslie and China return to New York and arrive at Louie’s home in the middle of an argument. Leslie and Ralph hit it off when Ralph asks point blank if he fucked a kid. They make plans to play tennis. After Ralph and China leave, Louie tries to ask Leslie about her, but Leslie plays coy (or maybe he has the early stages of Alzheimer’s). Finally, Louie says, “I need to know that you’re not fucking my daughter.” At that moment, China enters the room and is mad at her dad. Then Leslie leaves, and Louie still doesn’t know if her daughter and Leslie had sex. Maybe they did in France where it wouldn’t be illegal since he is an artist. [see: Polanski, Roman]

We next go to China’s 18th birthday party, which is outside and attended by many rich people. Louie is on a stage with Ralph and a band. China arrives in a horse-drawn carriage. This is why I don’t care about China and why she’s a nothing character. She’s a spoiled rich kid whose social circle is the rich and famous. Nothing that bad could ever really happen to her. And no matter what, her life will be fantastic. It doesn’t matter if Leslie had sex with her. It doesn’t matter if he tied her to a bed and shoved a baseball bat up her vagina while she screamed for help, and then let a dozen other guys do the same. She’ll be fine. Drew Barrymore went through all sorts of terrible things by the time she was 12, and she’s still in the top 0.0001% of most fortunate human beings who have ever lived. She’s a big movie star even though every movie she has been in is terrible.

Anyway, with Maggie’s help, Louie understands he needs to work up the courage to order China to stop seeing Leslie. But the party suddenly ends when it rains, because Louis CK thought that was a whimsical way to end the scene.

China goes to Leslie to announce that she is now 18 and looking forward to continuing their relationship. For some reason, she tells Leslie about a game she played as a child called “Mother, May I?” I know of that game, but the version China describes is disturbingly sexual. Like, the boys would take out their dicks and slap the girls in the face. Leslie doesn’t appear interested in China anymore. Maybe he was as alarmed by that game as I.

China returns home, where Louie finally acts like a man and tells her to end it with Leslie. He tells her she has to follow his orders because he pays her bills. This leads to both of them crying; China because she has no talent or skills, Louie because he coddled her all her life.

“What am I going to do?” cries China. Bitch, anything. So what you don’t know what you’re good at? You’re 18, of course you wouldn’t. You have years to figure it out. It’s called being a teenager. Plus, you have it better than most, way better, because you have money and connections. Harvard would let you in with an SAT score of 3. Use Leslie as a reference on your application. This is the climax of the movie, but it’s such a pointless dilemma. An 18-year-old who doesn’t know what to do after high school is a story for an episode of a family sitcom, not the most dramatic moment of a movie.

Anyway, Louie finally asks China if she had sex with Leslie. “That’s none of your fucking business Glen!” she yells. Louie’s character is named Glen. I called him Louie because Louis CK acts like he does in every other thing he’s written: a sad man who women yell at.

Later, China’s black friend talks to Louie Glen after she spoke to China, and tells Louie Glen some things that make him feel better. Louis CK is lazy enough and liberal enough to make the one black person in his movie the wise and comforting character, even though she’s only a teenager.

That’s so racist. Being black doesn’t automatically mean someone has more wisdom than a white person. If anything, a black person often has less, and what he or she does know wouldn’t apply to anyone who is not black. Oh hey, you can tell me which colors not to wear in which neighborhood. Well, I would never ever go into those neighborhoods, and even if I did, no one would think I was in a gang. Oh, you have advice for how to talk to the police? Why? Just talk to them like normal, silly. Why do you need a whole procedure for to deal with cops? What are you so afraid of?

Anyway, China’s black friend says, “Everyone is a pervert” and admits she had a crush on Louie Glen as a kid, so Louie Glen tries to have sex with her. No, he really does. This movie is so bad I can’t even joke about something dumb happening, because it actually happens.

Some months have passed and we are shown a party after the Emmy Awards. We learn that Ralph has left Louie Glen to make a show with Leslie that won awards that night, Louie’s Glen’s project with Grace was never made, Leslie has not seen China for some time, and neither has Louie Glen.

Finally, Louie Glen reconnects with China, who is now making it on her own by working at the perfume counter in a store, which is not a real job. I think they just stand people there to prevent someone from shoplifting the perfume. Though I admire China for getting a job. Most young women in her situation would just hook up with another old guy. Anyway, the movie ends with music that doesn’t at all fit the movie.


Review

“I Love You, Daddy” is a technically impressive film […] And all rendered meaningless by the unmistakable stench of creepiness, narcissism and hypocrisy permeating the story.


– Richard Roeper, Sun Times

The film’s visuals are its only asset. Shot on 35mm, the production design is quite striking, evoking classic glossy Hollywood films. But the rudderless story drags. It’s hard to say which is worse: the cringe-inducing moments or its meandering, plotless story.


– Claudia Puig, The Wrap

There’s not much I can say about I Love You, Daddy that wasn’t already said by critics three years ago. The reviews were mostly negative, which is fair, because I Love You, Daddy is a bad movie.

As a tribute or dissection or whatever to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, it fails because Manhattan was so much better. For instance, there is a scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen’s character attends a black tie event for a liberal cause and tells the effete set he’s with that they should use bats and bricks to attack an upcoming Nazi march. But the others reply, no a satirical article in the paper was enough to make our point. That brief moment was funnier and smarter than all two hours of I Love You, Daddy.

There’s also the fact that Louis CK was in a Woody Allen film in 2013, Blue Jasmine. I thought I should watch it in case it offered something that put I Love You, Daddy in context. But I don’t want to. It’s on Netflix, so I could put in on now…but I’d rather not. I wouldn’t even have to pay for Netflix; it’s on a hard drive full of movies my brother gave me. It got really good reviews and is only 98 minutes long…but I’m just not a Woody Allen fan.

The point is, Louis not only met his hero, but worked with him, a few years before making this movie. Which leads me to wonder about the characters Ralph and Leslie. In the movie, it seemed that Glen and Ralph represented two facts of Louis CK, the serious writer, and the man who makes dick jokes. Even though Glen tried, it was Ralph who befriended Leslie. So, did Louis CK expect to bond with Allen over arsty bullshit, to find that Allen liked him more for his humor? Probably. I mean, Louis CK is a terrible actor, so why else hire him? But I don’t want to examine this, because I don’t care. I will not analyze I Love You, Daddy. I’m not Roger Ebert (I still have my original jaw).

What I’d rather comment on is that while watching I Love You, Daddy, I was reminded of a time Louis CK was on The Opie & Anthony Show (a defunct morning zoo radio show hosted by a boring dad and a racist pedophile). He told a story about showing his very young daughter a Charlie Chaplin film, which made her sad because Chaplin’s character was arrested, so Louis tried to use it to teach her about life. Noted pervert, Jim Norton, piped in that she was actually upset because her dad made her watch his indulgent film choice instead of cartoons. Louis laughed.

That’s who Louis CK is: a man with particular tastes in media he wants to share. Before he made I Love You, Daddy he was turning into Artsy Louis. Artsy Louis is the Louis who wants to be known as profound rather than just a standup who jokes about his dick. You saw Artsy Louis grow when every season of Louie was less interested in being a comedy. Artsy Louis promoted Tig Notaro. Artsy Louis wanted to do what Woody Allen did: go from being the biggest stand up comic to a director of critically acclaimed, esoteric dramas.

It’s not that I dislike all of Louis CK’s scripted work. Most of Louie was fantastic. I became of fan Louis because of Lucky Louie, a one season sitcom he made on HBO in 2005. Just as I Love You, Daddy was a tribute to Woody Allen, Lucky Louie was a tribute to The Honeymooners: it was filmed in front of an audience, the main set was a bare apartment, and Louis played a member of the working poor. It was hilarious and clever, and portrayed marriage, parenthood, and financial constraint in an honest way (not that I would know as I am unmarried, childless, and a Rothschild).

That’s Louis CK’s strength as a comedian; he can turn observations about life into something hilarious and cathartic for the audience. But he doesn’t have the same talent for creating fictional, dramatic stories. Few comics could, and Louis CK is one of the smartest, funniest comedians there has ever been. There were times in Louie where Louis showed he could successfully accomplish what he failed to with I Love You, Daddy, but Louie had some flops too. And the best episodes of Louie, like his standup, came from his experiences as a comedian and father.

If Louis CK is ever allowed back into making TV and film, I would want to tell him not to chase his heroes, don’t copy Woody Allen, just be Louis CK…but with more sexual discretion this time. Not that he would care what I have to say about his career. He’d think I was just some nut on the street yelling at him.


On the Subject of Louie and His Fondness For His Penis

I was surprised as anyone when the Times story broke. By that I mean I wasn’t surprised at all. Come on, half of his stand up was about masturbation. He never hid his fondness for it. He pretty much admitted to what the Times reported, years earlier on Opie & Anthony (a defunct morning zoo radio show hosted by a dim-witted frat boy and an alcoholic with a domestic violence conviction). I just assumed we all knew and were fine with it.

On one hand, I agree that what Louis CK did was abhorrent. It was good of the Times to bring it to light and shame him. I don’t agree the Louis fans who say he didn’t do anything wrong. No, he very clearly did. I mean, come on, it was bad. He shouldn’t get a pass because he makes you laugh. If Louis was a manager at Target doing that to the cashiers, you wouldn’t excuse it because he keeps the store clean. No, he’d be fired and sent to Kmart. Hell, zoos would never be able to have primate exhibits if monkeys and apes had as little discipline as Louis CK.

I don’t agree with the Louis defenders who argue he is the victim. Because he’s not. He’s not. Doing something wrong, then having that exposed, does not make him a victim. It makes him someone who got caught. He’s not being persecuted by social justice mobs or cancel culture or whatever. Have some perspective. People in prison for crimes they didn’t commit are persecuted. There are just people who don’t like Louis because of something he did, and they have ever right to express their anger. What happened to Louis—the loss of his reputation, work, and money—is on him alone. Ultimately, Louis CK an adult who did something wrong and is bearing the consequences.

On the other hand, come on, what Louis did wasn’t that bad. Don’t place him with Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby; those men are sexual predators who should be in prison. Louis CK didn’t commit a crime (can you really lock up Louis CK for loving himself too much?). It’s not as if the criminal justice system can even provide genuine justice in many of these cases. Cosby is in prison, but his prime raping years were long behind him. He didn’t have to give up the best years of his life to pay for his crimes, he got to spend those years raping. Harvey Weinstein was recently found guilty of rape, and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Still, he still got to bang Scarlet Johansson, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Lawrence when they were 16. They’ll take away his freedom, but can never take that from him. There won’t be a day during his time in Attica where he won’t think, “Eh, it was worth it.”

To be honest, I don’t care if Louis CK works his way back into show business, or has to flee to one of those villages in Alaska where men go to escape the sex offender registry. I’m just glad the scandal put an end to Artsy Louis. He has gotten far too pretentious in the years before he was taken down. He became serious and thought what he had to say mattered, like with his pandering speech that the next Steve Jobs will be a woman. He used to go on Conan with brilliantly funny monologues. Then, in 2016, he told us to vote for Hillary because she is a mother. It was oh sosatisfying when the exact kind of liberals he had been kissing up turned on him.

I took particular delight that his downfall came right before I Love You, Daddy was to premier. Louis anticipated a new life as an auteur filmmaker. And then, it was taken away. I laughed when I learned that. I really did! I am happy that Artsy Louis was killed. It meant the return of Comedy Louis.

After only nine months out of the public eye, Louis CK returned to a few small clubs in New York City, and has been on tour ever since. People around the world have gone to see him, despite the scandal. I have not, but heard his leaked set and loved it. I don’t care that comics consider recording their sets to be unethical (it’s not like it’s as bad a jacking off in front of woman). It was funny and showed that old Louis—Comedy Louis—was back, and that people are laughing (especially that one guy), instead of shunning him. Louis even received a standing ovation at Skankfest and the Patrice O’Neal benefit. He even filmed a new special in mid-March.

Several of Louis CK’s colleagues have spoken up for him; not always to defend what he did, of course, but rather to advocate for his right to perform. Norm Macdonald took a lot of criticism for it, and it may have cost him his Netflix show, but Bill Burr, Michael Che, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Joe Rogan, Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, and others have supported Louis and still have jobs. Dave Chappelle backed Louis on his recent (Grammy award wininng) Netflix special. Even Janeane Garofalo spoke up for Louis, which was pretty brave, actually, because her fanbase is the kind that want Louis’s head. After Garofalo made it okay, human worm, Jim Norton, changed his stance and began defending his old friend.

There are still comics critical of Louis, among them Paul F Tompkins, which I think is probably because Louis was a dick to him in the ‘90s. I bet a lot of comics who are against Louis’s comeback are that way because Louis was rude to them. One of the wiggers who dated Ariana Grande said as much. Then there’s Jim Carrey, who likely never encountered Louis’s attitude—and rich enough to have Louis killed if he did—but posted an odd drawing criticizing CK for a joke about the Parkland shooting. I don’t know what the deal is with Jim Carrey, other than he’s a bipolar man who won’t get treatment because he thinks the pharmaceutical industry invented autism. Andy Ritcher called Louis’s Parkland jokes “lazy”. As a man whose job is to sit on a couch while others talk, Andy would know lazy.

I’m eager to see where Louis takes his comedy goes as he rebuilds his career. But, look, I don’t have a problem if someone is anti-Louis. It’s a legitimate way to feel. What’s been frustrating is how so much of the media has focused on the outrage that Luis is back to work and making controversies out of his jokes, but ignoring the fact that people are paying to see him and having a good time. There have been exceptions to the terrible media. The best thing I’ve read in defense of Louis CK’s was from The National Review. I also really liked this New Yorker piece, because it was a fair and honest critique. And there was a Daily Beast story with this section that made me laugh:

Ann Horner, 62, was the first protester to show up. “Keep it in your pants,” her sign said. Horner said she has experienced both harassment and sexual assault in her life, and that she was here because of C.K.’s harassment of women. “It’s not OK with me,” she said.

A young man named Shane, who passed by on his way inside, asked Horner what C.K.’s harassment had to do with his standup.

“Do you think it’s funny when people jerk off in front of women?” she asked him.

“No, I think his standup is funny,” he said. “Who do you think is funny?” he asked her.

“Hannah Gadsby” she said. “Do you know who that is?”

“Yes, she’s the one with the least funny special on Netflix,” he said.

Oh Shane, I wish I could marry you. We’re soul mates.

Maybe journalists are jealous because the public doesn’t miss a newsman who is fired due to a sex scandal. Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose won’t get standing ovations at Skankfest.


What to Do with Lou

Still, I totally get that there are women and beta orbiters who are legitimately upset at Louis CK and want some kind of justice, or him to pay a penance, whatever that may be. Since you don’t have the authority to punish him, are not going to be able to stop him from performing, or shame people away from his shows, you will have to try something else.

And I want to help. Here is what I propose. Lay off Louis CK, just for a few years at least. Let him get comfortable out in public, and maybe make another bad movie or two. In the meantime, we’ll all sign up for classes at The Actors Studio in New York City. I don’t know what it takes to get into The Actors Studio. Someone else can figure that out. I can’t do all the work here. Then, we wait—we learn method acting and theater and all that sissy bullshit—until the day Louis CK is invited to be interviewed by James Lipton for Inside The Actors Studio.

Then we strike.

We’ll sit in the audience and listen and laugh. Then Lipton will open the floor to audience questions. Since we’ll be the whole audience, every question we are going to ask Louis CK will be about his masturbating. Some of us will ask what it was like to jerk off in front of women, others advice about hand techniques. The first person will be kicked out right away, as will the second and third, but we’ll keep at it.

Lipton will get angry and demand someone with a valid question. One man will raise his hand and start off, “So, Mr. CK when you blah blah blah in your latest movie it invoked Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris, so what was it like when you took out your penis-” Then everyone should just yell about jerking off. The point will be to make Louis CK realize he can’t escape the scandal. It will always be with him. That will be our justice.

[Edit: I have been informed that The Actors Studio is no longer a school and also James Lipton passed away recently. OK…uh…let me think of something else…

Ah! Here’s what we do: kidnap Louis CK, tie him down, and make him the center of a bukkake session. Give him a taste of his own medicine.

How about that? What? You don’t like it? What is the matter with you? It’s a great plan! You know, what fuck it, I’m all out of ideas. I’m done. You deal with Louis CK however you see fit.]