Louis CK fans didn't get a new season of the comedian's unconventional, self-parodying FX program Louie. In its place, shot in secret and screened in Toronto, is a new feature film I Love You, Daddy -- which plays, to me, like a "Very Special Episode" of Louie, brimming with the same sardonic insight into parenting, show business, and all of the things that make up Louis CK's day-to-day life. It's also structured like a Woody Allen picture, photographed in beautiful black-and-white and (on the surface) deeply personal. Which is odd, because if I'm reading I Love You, Daddy right, it's all kind of about Allen, and his reputation for lusting after much younger women.
This isn't a mistake.Louis CK all but admitted this in a post-screening Q-and-A before brushing off the obvious accusation with "but it could be anybody." It's not. The character played by John Malkovich on screen in Louis CK's new comedy is probably a stand-in for Woody Allen. And he ends up courting Louis' 17-year-old daughter (Chloe Moretz), causing as much strife as you'd imagine.
I'm jumping ahead. I Love You, Daddy delivers what you've come to expect from Louis CK's storytelling, mainly on display in episodes of th longform Louie. Here, CK plays Glen Topher, a successful TV writer and a divorced father who, at the start of the film, gets his teenage daughter, China (Moretz), for the end of the school year. China loves her dad... because he's rich, he doesn't discipline her, and -- well, he's rich. Glen just sold a new TV program to the network, and agrees to have it ready by Fall, though he hasn't written a single episode and thinks the show might be about nurses. He's trying to juggle things at home and at work, both of which get complicated when China meets and starts hanging out with an iconic film director (Malkovich) with a checkered reputation.
What I mean by calling I Love You, Daddy a "Very Special Episode" of Louie is that the comedian is obviously experimenting with tricks of his film medium -- the gorgeous cinematography, shot on 35mm film, with a sumptuous, orchestral score accompanying his scenes -- while still staying in his Louie comfort zone. Pamela Adlon, for example, stops by to do her court-appointed "shit on Louie for 10 minutes" shtick. Her character serves no other purpose. And I Love You, Daddy allows CK to comment on all forms of entertainment chicanery, no doubt pulling stories from his own experiences in the Hollywood trenches. It's here that Charlie Day and Edie Falco thieve whole scenes by bringing their own patented humor to Louis' situations.
But the elephant in the room will be the film's use of the pedophile filmmaker in a vehicle made to resemble early Woody Allen movies (Manhattan, in particular). Coincidence? Fans can unpack it for years. Without that controversy, Louis CK's secret project I Love You, Daddy conjures the neurotic anxiety that this comedian always brings to conversations on parenting and surviving in the back-stabbing world of show business. And if Louis is transitioning from a cable show to personal, independent movies like this, I guarantee his fans will follow.