When the dust settles on a Toronto International Film Festival already chock full of politically incorrect films, Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy will likely be the one that generates the most think pieces and, yes, blogger outrage.
After all, the comedy centers on a privileged TV producer (C.K.) grappling with the fact that his 17-year-old daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) has fallen for a brilliant but lecherous 68-year-old filmmaker (John Malkovich). Throw in a casual drop of the N-word (said by C.K.), ample use of the word “retard” (by actresses Pamela Adlon and Ebonee Noel) and a few child rape jokes from Charlie Day and the movie is bound to offend.
The envelope-pushing material generated huge laughs and discussion at the film’s world premiere Saturday night. But it also shocked some of the more squeamish types.
That’s just fine with C.K.
“We’re depicting oxygen-rich people who live in these beautiful apartments and offices saying whatever they want,” he says during a sit-down interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Folks say shit to each other. You can’t think about the audience when you’re making the thing. If you do, you’re not giving them something that came out of your gut. You’ll be making something that you’re like, ‘Is this OK for you?’ And they say, ‘Yes, thank you.’ Mark Twain said something like, ‘You can’t say no one can eat steak just because the baby doesn’t have teeth yet.'”
When taken out of context, which is inevitable given the nature of social media, the more controversial elements of I Love You, Daddy will take on a life of their own. But Day expresses a bit of outrage at the idea of any I Love You, Daddy controversy.
“People seem to forget that we’re making movies,” says Day. “Now, I don’t go around in my daily life using the R-word or the N-word, throwing it around, but people do in reality, and Louis is making art depicting these people. The idea that we can’t even make a piece of art depicting the character that says something offensive is absurd.”
The pic, which also stars Edie Falco, Rose Byrne and Helen Hunt, features a hilariously amoral lot, to be sure. But audience members streaming out of the packed first showing were engrossed in conversation about the uncomfortable plot twists.
“That’s exactly what I want in a movie,” says C.K., who also wrote, edited and fully financed I Love You, Daddy. “That’s better than hearing, ‘I’m going to go see this movie again right away.'”
There was plenty to marvel at, like how exactly C.K. managed to shoot a film entirely in secret just three months ago and have it ready in time for a major film festival — an almost unheard-of pace. Another topic being discussed as the theater emptied was just how much I Love You, Daddy harkened Woody Allen, both his films and perhaps as a real-life inspiration for Malkovich character (C.K. co-starred in Allen’s 2013 film Blue Jasmine).
“Woody is an ingredient, along with a whole other generation of dudes who used to go up and down the age line a lot more easily,” say C.K. “I grew up with that. [Allen’s 1979 comedy] Manhattan is a movie I saw as a kid, and I was like, ‘OK, that’s what people do.’”
Manhattan also revolved around a relationship between a 17-year-old girl (Mariel Hemingway) and a much-older suitor (Allen). Both it and I Love You, Daddy were shot in black-and-white.
“We’re at the bleeding edge of ‘That’s not OK to do now,’ but those people are still around,” says C.K. “That’s a very interesting line to be on. But there’s a lot of people like that. [In other ways], this character is nothing like Woody. He’s an eccentric. He’s a very harsh dude. And he’s not self-aware.”
Regardless, the largely enthusiastic reviews for I Love You, Daddy seemed to draw the connection between Allen and Malkovich. And as for any disapproval from the politically correct corners of Twitter, C.K. won’t be ducking.
“Some artists get so upset when they get criticized by a group,” he said. “They think, ‘I shouldn’t have to hear that’ … in the same way that the people criticizing say, ‘I shouldn’t have to be aware of offensive movies that my blogger told me were offensive.’ Both are stupid. If you’re in for it, you’re in for it. If you’re not, you’re not.”
Judging by buyers’ reactions, they’re in.
“We like the risque nature of it,” says one buyer who is bidding for domestic rights to the film, echoing the sentiment of other distributors.
Ultimately, C.K. is happy that I Love You, Daddy is sparking debate — no small feat in a saturated media landscape catering to low attention spans.
“You make the thing, and everyone discusses it and they are OK,” says C.K. “It’s just a fucking movie.”