Louis C.K.’s movie “I Love You, Daddy” would have been oddly creepy under the best of circumstances. But the director-star’s admission Friday to masturbating in front of women, confirming a New York Times piece about his misconduct, cemented how near-impossible it would be currently to separate the film from reality.
The Orchard, which planned to open the film next week, scrubbed its release on Friday. The last-minute maneuver followed the project’s exposure at the Toronto Film Festival, and came just as “For Your Consideration” screeners went out pitching the movie for awards contention.
Whether “I Love You, Daddy” ever sees the light of day remains an open question, but the distributor seemingly had little choice but to shelve it right now.
The movie’s basic premise is a bit like the song “Everyone’s a little bit racist” in the musical “Avenue Q,” only here, the idea is that when it comes to sex, everyone’s perverted in their own way.
The whole exercise takes on a different hue filtered through the prism of Louis C.K.’s confession, after years of rumors about his behavior. In one especially ill-timed sequence, a comedy star played by Charlie Day furiously mimes masturbating while Louis C.K.’s producer talks on the phone to a popular actress.
While stand-up comics are notorious for being tortured souls who process personal issues through their art, that’s a different medium than movies or TV shows, into which Louis C.K. had migrated with his acclaimed FX series “Louie,” among others that he produced.
The irony about “I Love You, Daddy” — which feels very similar in tone to “Louie” — is its most important relationship involves a father and child. Louis C.K.’s character, a successful TV producer, is aghast at the prospect of his 17-year-old daughter becoming romantically involved with a famous 68-year-old movie director (the two are played by Chloe Grace Moretz and an appropriately weird John Malkovich), whose preoccupation with young women is laughed off by most of those around him.
Yet while Louis C.K.’s character seeks to forbid a relationship between the teen and a man four times her age, his own hypocrisy eventually comes into play.
Clearly inspired by Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” from the black-and-white photography to the March-December romance, the movie’s perspective appears awkwardly conflicted. It’s an homage to Allen’s movies, a subtle indictment of his history, and a testament to his famous explanation — when the world learned of Allen’s relationship with then-girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter — that “The heart wants what it wants,” all at once.
Despite a mixed critical reception at Toronto, the DVD packaging had no trouble finding flattering quotes, hailing the movie as “enthralling,” “uncomfortably funny” and “audacious,” while crediting how it “tackles button-pushing issues with daring panache.”
Those buttons, however, have become landmines, following a disorienting series of revelations about men in power — centering on Hollywood, but also in other fields — abusing the privilege associated with those positions.
Inevitably, coverage of such stories quickly segues to longer-term speculation, beginning with how much of a blow this will represent to Louis C.K.’s career. In the near future, one would suspect his most likely forum would be in stand-up, especially with corporate partners — including FX, HBO and Netflix — shying away from prior affiliations with him.
Still, today in particular offers a reminder that when it comes to scandals, sweeping pronouncements and crystal balls tend to be fuzzy. Louis C.K.’s statement of contrition comes as Mel Gibson, who was not long ago widely shunned by Hollywood, co-stars in a newly released family comedy, “Daddy’s Home 2” — a scenario that once would have sounded improbable at best.