It’s difficult to choose which individual moment in Louis CK’s film trailer for I Love You, Daddy is most vomit-worthy.
Is it when Chloë Grace Moretz is paraded around in a bikini while everyone else seems dressed for a brisk spring morning? Is it the first time she coyly says, “I love you,” to CK? Or watching a grown woman repeatedly say, “Daddy,” as if it hasn’t been sexualised by the porn industry? Is it when it’s implied that CK’s character is recasting his TV show just so he gets to shag Rose Byrne? Or when an iconic director with a known interest in very young women turns his attentions to Moretz?
Bitter does not do justice to the taste left in the mouth by this Woody Allen homage (black and white, jazz-scored, Manhattan-set). At a time when the biggest news story in the world is about predatory men in Hollywood, a man who has long been linked to sexual-harassment rumours has made a film about predatory men that deliberately evokes the work of another predatory man, CK told The Hollywood Reporter: "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.”
Stop the meta merry-go-round. I want to get off the ride.
It is a myth that the creeps of Hollywood are hidden from view. They are in plain sight. They are literally making films about their own creepiness and normalising their own behaviour. Woody Allen made Manhattan. A film in which he gave himself the green light to date a 17-year-old girl. Played by a 16-year-old at the time. Who wrote in her autobiography, many years later, that she had to turn the director down in real life, once she turned 18.
The plot of I Love You, Daddy is that a screenwriter, Glen (played by CK), struggles when his 17-year-old daughter becomes romantically involved with a revered director (John Malkovich) who is rumoured to be a paedophile and rapist.
John Malkovich and Chloë Grace Moretz in I Love You, Daddy
This is all sounding very familiar, isn’t it?
It is just a trailer. Two minutes and six seconds of a feature-length film that could be far more nuanced than this might suggest. But I don’t want to be watching this. Not after a fortnight of Weinstein. Not after nearly a year of Casey Affleck being an Oscar winner. Not after decades of Woody Allen. And not after almost half a century of Roman Polanski.
We are used to powerful, rich, overwhelmingly white men telling us what they deem to be acceptable behaviour
Louis CK is supposed to be one of our most brilliant comedic minds. He is supposed to be wry, honest, edgy and boundary-breaking. Forgive me for not being wowed that he is telling a story we have heard a hundred times before.
CK probably didn’t know the Weinstein story would break when it did. But this is a man who has been at the centre of a swirl of rumours about a “high-profile male comedian” with a pattern of behaviour of forcing women in the industry to watch him masturbate. There haven’t been criminal charges, nor has anyone gone on record, but the rumours persist and have been raised by powerful voices like Roseanne Barr and Tig Notaro. A female journalist has written about being threatened after trying to discuss the allegations with other comedians.
CK hasn’t addressed them other than dismissively, telling New York Magazine: “"No. I don’t care about that. That’s nothing to me." In I Love You, Daddy, CK has Charlie Day’s character mime masturbating in front of Edie Falco – he may claim not to care about the rumours, but making an entire film about them would rather suggest otherwise.
Often when art strays uncomfortably close to real life, someone makes a decision to sacrifice a project on the grounds of sensitivity. Maybe they postpone a film premiere or make edits to remove contentious scenes. The 2007 film Gone Baby Gone, starring secret-lawsuit-settling Casey Affleck, had its UK release pushed back after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The plot of an abducted child, who bore an uncanny resemblance to McCann, was rightly judged unpalatable at that moment in time. Films with violent mass shootings have similarly been postponed or re-shot in the wake of real-life tragedies.
And yet, after the Weinstein story broke, nobody stepped in to suggest that perhaps it wasn’t the right time for I Love You, Daddy to see the light of day.
Because we are used to powerful, rich, overwhelmingly white men telling us what they deem to be acceptable behaviour. It is the definition of privilege to be able to control a narrative like this – to be in a position to make a film like this. Post-Weinstein, power and gender dynamics in Hollywood are being questioned. There can be no doubt that CK is perched at the top of the ladder.