I had already watched I Love You, Daddy when word was handed down by The Orchard, the film's indie distributor, that the film's planned premiere had been cancelled as a result of the long whispered about but now shouted accusations of sexual abuse and harassment toward popular comic Louis C.K. by multiple female professional peers.
Suddenly, in the midst of a climate of cultural purifying, those long whispered rumors, all of which had been long denied by Louis C.K., were given the credibility they'd always deserved and, maybe even more suddenly, Louis C.K. had become a cinematic pariah, a man whose film had sunk faster than The Birth of a Nation and a man whose entire career, otherwise respected, had imploded with such a force that The Orchard, who'd forked over $5 million for the distribution rights to the film after its mostly warm TIFF reception, was left holding onto a film that went from borderline creepy but perhaps a valid social statement to downright unreleasable.
By the time I sat down to write my review of I Love You, Daddy, The Orchard had gone even further in announcing the film was being pulled from distribution, a stunning move considering film critics nationwide had already received screening links to the film and, just yesterday, many of us also received awards season promotional DVD's of the film.
It is interesting that I Love You, Daddy wasn't pulled into Louis C.K. himself became the problem, a fact that doesn't obscure the film's remarkably ill-timed dalliances with material that is provocative at best and freakishly creepy at the worst. In the black-and-white film, one of several ways in which the film is an homage to Woody Allen's Manhattan, Louis C.K. plays Glen Topher, a slightly out of the game television producer who has long celebrated the work of Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), an Allenesque 68-year-old with long whispered about tendencies toward younger girls and women including child molestation.
Of course, these are only rumors.
"Probably the best writer-filmmaker of the last 30 years or more," Topher proclaims when his daughter, China (Chloe Grace Moretz), mentions his known history with younger women and the rumors of pedophilia.
Louis C.K. himself has proclaimed, long before his career and everything around it imploded, that I Love You, Daddy was ultimately about the fact that you can never really know anybody. Absent "facts," I Love You, Daddy seems to be telling us that we should trust what we know to be true rather than perpetuating rumors never proven to be true.
The truth is that I Love You, Daddy is a "wink" film. It's a film that pretends to be about something important but, in reality, is stuck in some sort of cinematic twilight zone where C.K. seems to be either taunting his audiences, excusing his behaviors or, if one wants to view the film through a more positive lens, perhaps simply exorcizing his demons.
At the time the film was pulled from the release calendar, eight professional reviews had already popped up on Metacritic.com, where it still sits with "generally favorable" reviews and critical acclaim from critics at Slant, The Playlist, CineVue, Indiewire, and The Hollywood Reporter all serving up praise ranging from a solid endorsement to downright lofty praise for the film's "exhilaratingly honest," "ultimately enthralling," and "boundary-pushing" presence.
Here's my response to each of you.
Fuck you for ignoring your responsibility as film journalists. Fuck you for offering your support and praise for a film that is provocative only for the sake of being provocative and does nothing other than exploit its subjects in much the same way that women and men have been exploited by the Hollywood power structure for years whether we're looking at the indie world, I'm looking at you Fantastic Fest, or folks like Weinstein, Spacey, Louis C.K., and the others that have been talked about in hushed whispers for years.
During a radio appearance just yesterday, I was discussing with the host, a longtime film journalist whose work I greatly admire, whether or not we can, or even should, review the films while setting aside extraneous factors.
Not surprisingly, I came down on the side of film journalism being just like every other form of responsible and ethical journalism - I believe we must write and report truth even when that truth conflicts with our perceptions of a film. I acknowledged my own struggles in wanting to somehow remove from this very website reviews of films in which known sex offenders were involved, yet the challenge becomes "How can we hold individuals accountable on the basis of rumors and allegations?"
It's a question I still haven't answered to my own satisfaction.