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Is Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy Really the Worst-Timed and Least Thought-Out Thing Ever?

There’s so much to unpack in this trailer for Louis C.K.’s upcoming film, I Love You, Daddy, that I feel like I’m on the world’s worst vacation. Watch the trailer above, and prepare to have…opinions.

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The official synopsis for the film is this:

TV producer Glen Topher is a divorced dad whose teenage daughter China is living with him during her senior year. Glen takes China to a Hollywood party where he meets his idol Leslie Goodwin, the auteur who inspired his career. During the evening, the gossip about Goodwin’s preference for underage girls begins to look plausible to Glen when the older man shows an intense interest in China. And when Goodwin invites her to go to Paris with him, Glen has to start doing some serious parenting.

Watching this trailer in the immediate wake of the heightened discussion around sexual assault and abuse in the entertainment industry that was spurred by exposing Harvey Weinstein was rather like watching the trailer for the upcoming Bruce Willis film, Death Wish in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting.

I was immediately made uncomfortable as I watched Chloë Grace Moretz’s character, China, be placed in the same position as so many women proclaiming #MeToo, in front of John Malkovich’s Leslie Goodwin. That, however, wasn’t the thing that bothered me. After all, it’s very possible to create a film depicting situations like that that is appropriately critical or illuminating.

Here are my concerns:

Is Louis C.K. the best person to tell this story?

Now, he self-funded this film, so he has the right to make whatever film he wants. However, it’s interesting to me that this is the subject matter he chose. Especially since he refuses to really talk about the “rumors” of sexual misconduct against female comedians that have been swirling around him. None of the accusations have been confirmed, mind you, so there is that. However, he recently had fellow professional comedian, Tig Notaro, come out and say that it was important that he address this, since these allegations are way more serious and of more consequence to his industry than other types of “celebrity rumors.” C.K. continues to refuse to address it. If he can’t even bring himself to take part in a nuanced conversation about this (assuming, of course, that this isn’t something he did), how can we trust that he’s got the nuanced directing chops to handle this subject matter on screen?

It could be that, since he has daughters of his own, and his character in the film lives a similar life to his own, that this is something he worries about. That’s fair. I wouldn’t want predators in my industry taking advantage of my daughter, either. But here’s where we get to my second concern…

Emphasis seems to be on Glen being a “good dad,” rather than on the predator. 

What truly squicked me about this trailer was the fact that everyone seemed to be putting the onus on Glen to be a “better father,” because otherwise his daughter is going to have sex with an older man. It’s her and her “daddy issues” that are to blame, after all. Pedophiles and sexual assaulters are to be expected, didn’t you know? It’s up to fathers to make sure their daughters “do the right thing” with their bodies so that this stuff doesn’t happen to them. There’s a scene in the trailer where Glen approaches Leslie to let him know that China is a minor. Leslie replies “A minor what?”

And we’re supposed to laugh?

And what does Glen do after that moment? As this is a trailer, we don’t get that answer here. But if the answer is anything other than “punch him in the face,” or “report him to the police,” this is infuriating. Glen seems more concerned with making sure his idol still likes him than he is with his daughter’s safety. Meanwhile, he’s correcting her behavior and trying to ensure that she “does something with her life.”

This wants to be, and should be, the story of an enabler who allows a Hollywood pedophile to exist and thrive. The trailer, however, tells the story of a dad who needs to rein in his sexually-charged daughter by “being a better father” so that she doesn’t get raped.

This is all very frustrating because, problematic though he has often been, I’ve been a fan of a lot of his work, and it often seems to come from a smart, insightful place. I really want this film to be the incisive critique of Hollywood sexual abuses that we need right now. A man calling out other men.

I sought out a Q & A with him and some of the cast of I Love You, Daddy from when the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, hoping to get additional clues about the thought process that went into this. You can watch the whole thing above (but it will start at 14:50, which is when the part I’m talking about starts).

He’s asked about the scene in the film that he’s the most proud of, and he cites a scene toward the end with Malkovich and Moretz. He then says that the original version of that scene as written and read at a table-read was “not a woman talking. It’s a dude writing ‘This is what she would say…'” He ended up (at the last-minute) working with Moretz on changes for the scene that she was comfortable with, and basically let her take control of playing it how she needed to.

The result seemed to be up to snuff with the TIFF audience watching the Q&A at least.

I want to think the best of this. I want to believe that this is C.K. at his most introspective, at his most capable of self-examination and examination of other men in Hollywood. I want to believe that this will be him at his smartest and most nuanced.

I’m just not entirely sure that will be true.

What do you all think?

(image: screencap)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

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