I Love You, Daddy: Movie Man Jackson

Art imitates life. TV writer and producer Glen Topher (Louis C.K.) has amassed much fame and fortune during his career. This success has come with a cost to his personal life, losing relationships with his ex-wife, Aura (Helen Hunt), and his girlfriend, Maggie (Pamela Adlon). He shares an enabling relationship with his seventeen-year-old daughter, China (Chloë Grace Moretz), seemingly always getting what she wants by asking her daddy and following it up with “I love you, Daddy.”

Their relationship becomes turbulent with the arrival of legendary filmmaker Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich) onto the scene, who just so happens to be Glen’s idol. The pushing-70 Leslie immediately takes a liking to Glen’s daughter, naturally creeping out the father. Glen struggles with how to approach this, in addition to trying to overcome writer’s block for a new television show and navigating a partnership with the starlet Grace Cullen (Rose Byrne).

Nothing ever completely exists in a vacuum, be it art, food, technology, humans—or in this case—-thoughts on a film. I Love You, Daddy doesn’t so much arrive on the scene as it does get shooed to the back like a kid working backstage on a school play who accidentally is made visible. The accidentally visible, in this case, being screeners sent ahead of the storm. It is impossible to view this Louis CK-helmed flick without thinking about the sexual misconduct news and admission that involves CK (as well as a bevvy of other known figures). It leaves his film as a weirdly fascinating yet mostly disturbing viewing for mostly the wrong reasons.

Let’s get this out of the way, however. I Love You, Daddy features a guy who’s done horrific things, but it is still far from a horrific movie. There is some good here, beginning with the black-and-white styled employed by C.K., paying homage to works done by Woody Allen (Manhattan, particularly) and Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. While Louis’ editing as it pertains to telling a coherent story can be problematic at times, within scenes, his camera work can be quite good and steady accompanied by a old-school orchestral score. The cast featuring names like Byrne, Adlon, Moretz, Charlie Day, and Malkovich make for a solidly acted production with the writing for their characters that is given, with Byrne and Moretz turning in the best work and managing to hold interest.

Louis C.K. shot this film in secret, and after watching, easy to see why. “Art imitates life” has never felt as fitting as it does in I Love You, Daddy. This is not an exercise in subtly. In roughly 25 minutes of screentime, the viewer is subjected to 45 seconds of simulated masturbation, a “casting couch” scene that covers all the bases of power abuse from both sexes, and an open admission by a character calling another a pedophile. Finally, there’s the dialogue, which feels way too spot-on to be clever. Lines such as “He’s kind of gross, you know? But he’s hilarious,” and “I’m sorry to all women. I want all women to know I apologize for being me!” are akin to reading OJ Simpson’s If I Did It.

Which raises the ultimate question: Why was this film made? As a comedy, little is funny. As a drama, little is dramatic. Did we really need a movie representation of what 2017 is going to be known for? Thematically, there appears to be a desire on Louis C.K.’s part to make some pseudo-intellectual message about everyone being perverts in the world in one way or another. But, this holds no water, especially after the weak, tie-a-bow-on-it nice ending that leaves little resolved.

One can only surmise that Louis C.K. made I Love You, Daddy to serve as some sort of release therapy to himself that would be played across a national viewing audience that could potentially “understand” it. Some things aren’t meant to be understood, but taken at face value. I Love You, Daddy is one of those things.

C-

Photo credits go to vulture.com, rollingstone.com, en.wikipedia.org, and the malaymailonline.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Trumbo: Movie Man Jackson

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“The blacklist is alive and well, and so is the black market.”

Out of the key societal institutions, one would think that art and Hollywood would at least be more tolerable than most with regards to personal beliefs. Not so, at least in the 40’s and 50’s. In the year 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is undoubtedly the movie industry’s top writer, his scripts worth their weight in gold for studios.

His success doesn’t quiet or suppress his beliefs, though. During a time in which Communist paranoia is at a peak, Trumbo doesn’t shy away from the fact that his ideals, and those ideals of his companions, are communist ones. Believing that their movies are being tainted by Communist propaganda, Dalton and others are ostracized by Hollywood for their beliefs, and blacklisted from ever working in show biz again. But with a little ingenuity, Trumbo and friends may be able to prove that Hollywood is, for lack of a better word, just dumb.

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Grab a mental image of what the typical November/December (aka Oscar season) biopic looks like, and I’d wager that it looks a little like Trumbo. That’s not a damning statement; Trumbo is a solid film that gives what seems to be—for the most part—a knowledgeable retelling of Dalton Trumbo’s mid-1940’s and 50’s life during a time in America’s history where Red Party fear was rampant. Is it likely to be remembered? Doubtful.

Trumbo the man was a compelling character, and writers John McNamara, Bruce Cook, and director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers series), appear to know that. While what made him compelling is the fact that he was willing to stand up for an ideology that always has carried an extremely negative sentiment, he’s still shown to be a smart, loving, and family man, an American with an un-American political siding. And yet at the same time, he’s shown to be possibly a little selfish in his war against Hollywood for the wrong reasons. Though the results of his war on both his family and “Hollywood 10” friends are decidedly predictable, his unique character allows Trumbo the movie to be more than just a what-is-Communism type movie.

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But, the movie does really fall short in delivering a high level of emotional impact. A prolonged prison scene in particular which is supposed to be sad, appears to only exist in the movie for Trumbo to reference a line later for a cheap laugh. Perhaps it is due to Trumbo sometimes being drama, and sometimes comedy. It is not a jarring shift in tone, because Dalton’s wit is established early, but the humor can be considered undercutting to the film’s emotional core. The story doesn’t jump around a ton, but does so a little more often than desired, if only because in these moments it feels like some parts were removed for whatever reason.

Is Bryan Cranston ever not a highlight of a film or television show? His Dalton Trumbo is a tough role, dependent on a look and character in an era that could resemble a bad play instead of a feature film. Cranston may not be completely flawless, as it just calls for a lot of mannerisms, makeup, and smoking, but he never makes Trumbo to be a joke. He’s without a doubt the strongest aspect. Surely to be underrated work, Diane Lane and Elle Fanning provide the story with the few emotional beats that work. Ever a model of consistency, John Goodman shines with his few scenes in the film.

Unfortunately, some of the cast is weaker than others. Louie CK does play one of Trumbo’s closest allies and confidantes, but he feels more out of place in this feature than say, American Hustle, where playing a version of himself wasn’t that bad. And while Helen Mirren has received acclaim for her turn as the Bourgeoisie gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, it’s more caricature than anything of substance.

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Not as strong as the Oscar-winning scripts he wrote, Trumbo is a nevertheless a good (maybe slightly forgettable) biopic that can be uneven here and there, but is overall an intriguing real story supported with a sound lead performance.

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to blogs.wsj.com, cinemablend.com, and ew.com.

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