Comedian and filmmaker Louis C.K. unveiled his stealthy produced movie I Love You, Daddy at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday night, and it’s making critics think of Woody Allen in more ways than one.
Directed, co-written and starring C.K. (his first feature directorial effort since Pootie Tang in 2001), the film centers on Glen Topher (C.K.), a successful but discontented TV writer struggling to deal with the blithe behavior of his spoiled teenage daughter, China (Chloe Grace Moretz).
According to the first wave of reviews, I Love You, Daddy seems to channel both Allen’s work and his personal life. C.K.’s film features lush black-and-white cinematography, an orchestral score, and a semi-autobiographical protagonist, for example. It also costars John Malkovich as a celebrated filmmaker whose reputation has been marred by allegations of a past affair with a minor, mirroring Allen.
For critics, it adds up to a film that meanders at times but boasts some strong performances and moments of C.K.’s disquieting comedy. Read some reactions below.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
“The basic portrait [C.K.] is drawing here is of an ineffectual father who exercises no control or influence over his daughter; he’s set no example, created no boundaries, inspired no aspirations. The world has been served to her on a plate and what kid isn’t going to just take it? It’s a predicament — call it a personal tragedy if you want — of his own making, and yet the film is largely a comedy, one with quite a few strong laughs, many sharp perspectives and not a few things to say about adult foibles. Given Louis C.K.’s well-known insights into all manner of things, however, it just seems odd to see him playing such a successful guy with so little skill at relating to other people, how to work with them professionally and how to influence them personally. The character’s leading trait is that he’s pathetic but, despite that, he’s massively successful. Go figure.”
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Scenes sprawl, digress, and reveal character with tart-tongued observational flair. At the same time, C.K., who edited the film himself (as he does his TV series), piles up scenes as if he were stacking episodes on top of each other. A number of those scenes are terrific: laugh-out-loud funny, and with much to say about the state of the new beleaguered middle-aged male. But the film meanders, and its second half is shapeless. C.K. creates situations that are just lifelike enough to remind you that life, in fact, doesn’t come in adjoining episodes. I Love You, Daddy deserves a distributor, and its sharp dialogue and terrific cast should be a magnet for C.K.’s fans. But he still has a ways to go as a filmmaker if he wants to broaden that audience and make an indie knockout. (Prediction: He will.)”
Eric Kohn, IndieWire
“As the writer, director and star, C.K. expands the awkward, introspective humor of his now-defunct F/X show to a grander cinematic terrain, but otherwise it may as well be an exuberant two-hour installment of that same program. Shot on glorious 35mm film with a wry style that emulates 40’s-era classic Hollywood, I Love You Daddy echoes Woody Allen’s Manhattan in that the vibrant, antiquated style strikes an odd contrast with its anti-hero — a neurotic, disaster-prone middle-aged man in the midst of self-destructive circumstances with little hope of redemption. As with all of C.K.’s output, I Love You, Daddy displays a stunning degree of ambition: it’s alternately sad and silly, provocative and philosophical, with an underlying poetic quality that fuses together the constant shifts in tone. It’s also his most outwardly problematic work for reasons that have less to do with the caliber of the filmmaking than ideas behind it.”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Maybe only Louis C.K. could have got away with such a controversial subject — that’s if he has got away with it — and done so with such elegant wit. With his hang-dog expression, the gloomy eyes behind the heavy glasses (which he occasionally removes to rub his face, wearily) he looks eerily like any actor in a later Woody Allen movie who is tacitly called upon to ventriloquise the Woody role. But he is notably less romantic; there is a hint of Larry David there, too. … With any other comic, or actor, you might wince at [a key scene], at its sheer male presumption, and to be honest I did wince. But Louis C.K. carries it off with his strangely artless, almost maladroit sincerity. And it is very funny.”
Tim Grierson, Screen International
“Lensed by C.K.’s frequent cinematographer Paul Koestner, I Love You makes the most of its stagy, talk-heavy script by playing up the story’s intimacy. At over two hours, the film feels flabby and redundant, but Byrne, Moretz and Malkovich adroitly create multi-dimensional characters who we think we can peg early on. More skilled as a writer and director than as an actor, C.K. doesn’t have the dramatic heft of his co-stars, but he sincerely projects Glen’s frustration and uncertainty, arriving at the kind of nicely understated finale that Allen has made his speciality.”