Is Louis CK the new Woody Allen? He’s certainly trolling the old one (and just about everybody else) in “I Love You Daddy,” the first film he’s directed in 16 years, which he debuted in Toronto Saturday night.
Shot in black and white on 35mm, it’s both an homage to and satire of 1979’s “Manhattan,” with that movie’s sexually predatory overtones made scathingly explicit. As a typically candid CK told the audience at a post-screening Q&A, his inspiration for the film was, “You think about people whose work you like, and then it’s like, ‘what if one of those guys was f–king my daughter?’”
Artistically, it’s gorgeous, with a soaring original orchestral score and the look of an old Hollywood classic. But its barbed screenplay is unapologetically filthy, with scenes like a comedian (Charlie Day) furiously pantomime-masturbating as CK’s TV-writer character Glen Topher talks to a famous actress (Rose Byrne) on the phone, or Chloe Grace Moretz, as Glen’s spoiled 17-year-old daughter China, sitting on Glen’s lap cooing the film’s title phrase and lounging around the house in a bikini.
CK doesn’t write himself as the bad guy, of course. The film’s designated creep (or is he?) is John Malkovich as a thinly disguised Allen stand-in, known both for his epic film work and for dating very young girls; he takes a shine to China at a party.
As usual, CK’s satire aims far and wide: “Ask him whether he f–ked that kid!” Day’s character keeps saying of the famous filmmaker (eventually just brazenly posing the question himself). But Glen is also quick to admonish anyone for judging people’s private lives, which seems a pretty convenient theme for CK, who’s been dogged by low-level but persistent rumors about his own propensity for sexual harassment.
He also takes gleeful aim at feminists, having his male characters repeatedly explain the concept of feminism to a wide-eyed China. And he takes a verbal shotgun to anyone who might be offended by un-PC language; in additional to Glen’s casually dropping the n-word at one point, Pamela Adlon, as his ex, uses the word “retarded” so many times I lost count.
Like Woody Allen, CK is now so established as an auteur he can get just about anyone to work with him, and his female cast in particular is great: Along with Adlon and Byrne, there’s Edie Falco as Glen’s beleaguered producing partner and Helen Hunt as his ex-wife. Malkovich is snakelike and hilarious, and…