‘Daddy’ deserves to be seen

Image copyright Circus King Productions

I started watching Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy (2 ¾ stars on 0-5 scale) with trepidation. Would I be able to forget the recent deeds of the man and instead concentrate on the art? Could I ignore the (masturbating) elephant in the room?

At first I could not, and that bothered me, as I’ve always advocated for separating the art from the person except in the most extreme circumstances. (Can one dispassionately judge the films of an admitted Nazi or serial killer, for instance?) And, of course, C.K. doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with those monsters. But because his film – which he wrote, directed and stars in (as a television writer/producer not dissimilar to himself) – addresses topics that are embarrassingly close to the sexual harassment and mistreatment that, by his own admission, he’s guilty of, it became a tough watch for me. It made Lolita seem like Sesame Street, especially when C.K.’s character lectures his daughter (the excellent Chloe Grace Moretz) on feminism and watches his friend (Charlie Day) mime masturbation in front of him and his female personal assistant (Edie Falco). Talk about cringeworthy.

But then I saw a method in the madness, a point to the odd cinematic choices and explorations of uncomfortable subject matter. Stylistically, it started to work, especially when John Malkovich (whose character is a veiled comparison to Woody Allen) arrived a third of the way into the film with his mesmerizingly subtle performance. This was clearly meant to be social commentary, I told myself, but it has grown into something larger thanks to recent events: performance art and, in a sense, an admission by C.K. that he (or at least his character) is a troubled person, especially when it comes to his relationship with women. It’s akin to watching a man unravel before your eyes and admit his guilt before he’s been accused.

The finished product might simply be too odd, uncomfortable and self-indulgent for most viewers, especially because it’s half comedy, half drama, all black-and-white, and contains the strangest score you’re likely to hear this year. (The 1940s-style, comedy-romance music is either a stroke of genius or a laughable disaster.) But, like almost all art, it does deserve to be seen, and I would encourage someone to distribute it in some form. I just hope any and all profits could go to a good cause, such as a women’s charity.

Copyright 2017 © Cameron Meier

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