Louis C.K.‘s Fourth of July is my kind of “comedy”, if you want to call it that. Sharply and confidently co-written by LCK and Joe List, who plays the depressive, glum-faced lead, it’s a “recovering alcoholic confronts abusive dysfunctional family of boozers” thing. Maybe it got me because I’m currently angry about a certain family matter and I was thinking about family battles and whatnot, but either way it turned the lock.

FOJ was criticized yesterday by THR‘s Frank Sheck as “bland” and somewhat tired…”[generating] a familiar feeling further exacerbated by its lack of incisive dialogue and well-drawn characterizations.” I’m sorry but Sheck’s observation struck me as complete bullshit. The flat, cleverly deflated, take-it-or-leave-it dialogue is not only incisive but completely believable because this is how downish people think and talk and behave. I know because I’m one of them. Okay, I’m not as gloomy as List’s jazz-pianist character, Jeff, but I know the territory so don’t tell me.

You can accuse Fourth of July of not being similar enough to, say, The Family Stone (which I loved) or failing at being Ron Howard‘s Parenthood or failing to engage like some giggly, goofy, bouncy-ass comedy and therefore unsatisfying to those who expect and require broadly played humor, and that’s fine. But you can’t say it doesn’t feel glummishly real, and in that sense engagingly fresh (most comedies avoid the dark mood pocket material).

Fourth of July never once tries to “sell” the funny, if you want to call it that. It’s a movie that says “if you find these people funny, knock yourself out…but it’s up to you.” I didn’t laugh out loud once, but I was LQTM-ing all through it. That said, a lot of people at the Beacon were laughing pretty hard at times.

Remember that scene in Sideways when Thomas Haden Church half-pep talks and half-admonishes Paul Giamatti with “don’t go to the dark side”? Well, Fourth of July is the fucking dark side, and by my standards it’s not only unpretentiously funny but “wow, this movie couldn’t give two shits if people think it’s funny or not.” It’s amusing in a conceptual sense, I feel, as well as knowing and, okay, occasionally schticky in a plain-spoken, unpretentious, underwhelming sort of way, but it’s mainly about behavior and attitudes that don’t know from amusing.

In short it’s my idea of atypical and semi-original as far as comedies about fucked-up families go, but it’s certainly not Steve Martin in the ’80s funny or Martin Short funny or Bill Hader or Charles Grodin funny, but it’s close at times to being Jonah Hill funny if Hill was playing a moody guy on Klonopin.

In short, it’s not so much the plot or the scheme but the fuck-all mindset of the characters that gets you.

Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman described it yesterday as something in the vein of “a Millennial indie trifle about a whimsically neurotic New York dude trying to come to terms with his problematic family”, but in my head it’s more concise than trifling.

OG also said that the movie feels like Louis C.K. saying, in essence, ‘Forget what I got tagged with in 2017…look, I can do this!’ Well, I didn’t think for one single second about LCK whipping it out….not once. That shit will never go away reputation-wise, but that was five years ago and a lot of people, I think, are trying very hard (and making progress in some ways) to live in the present. What he did was creepy and pervy, but it wasn’t….well, I just think it’s probably better to move on in an Al Franken or Jeffrey Toobin sense of that term.

Structure-wise, Fourth of July is (a) a half-hour’s worth of character set-up (i.e., Manhattan-residing Jeff venting to his wife Beth (Sarah Tollemache) and his therapist (LCK) about his insensitive, boorish family and especially his mom), and (b) maybe a half-hour’s worth of woozy, battle-fatigued Jeff enduring the bruising, boozy behavior of said parents and cousins in and around a lakeside vacation home in Maine. Then around the 60-minute mark or maybe a bit before, wham…it all ignites. Jeff lets go with a torrent of fuck you’s (as in “fuck you, fuck you and fuck you“) and the whole crew goes into shock. And then the last 30 or 35 minutes are about clean-up and catharsis.

Is it realistic and believable that a generally callous and dysfunctional family, one that occasionally aspires to the realm of Eugene O’Neill‘s Tyrone clan…is it believable that they could come to any kind of catharsis in 35 minutes? No, but you have to cut movies like this a little slack. FOJ only runs 94 minutes, and the rules of drama require certain disciplines from the final third.

HE recommends Fourth of July. It feels self-aware and thought-through, and for my money it knows what it’s doing. And I found it “funny” and real.


Here’s a re-post of my 11.9.17 review of I Love You, Daddy, titled “A Tough, Interesting Film Goes Over The Side With Louis C.K.“:

I caught my second viewing of I Love You, Daddy (The Orchard, 11.17) the other night. You’ve probably read it’s about a hot-shot TV writer-producer (played by producer-director-writer-editor-star Louis C.K.) who’s increasingly disturbed by his 17-year-old daughter China (Chloe Grace Moretz) falling into a relationship with a famous 68 year-old libertine (John Malkovich), and about his weak, barely noticable parenting skills.

After my first viewing I was saying to myself that while I don’t exactly “like” I Love You, Daddy I respect what it’s saying, which is that wealthy showbiz types and their liberal, laissez-faire approach to morality, relationships and especially parenting is a fairly vacant proposition.

After my 2nd viewing I believe this all the more. The film is basically an indictment of “whatever, brah” liberal lifestyles and relative morality.

It is almost assured of getting a rave review from the National Review‘s Kyle Smith as well as other conservative critics and commentators. Which is all the more noteworthy because it was made by a successful stand-up guy known for his mostly liberal views.

I Love You, Daddy doesn’t play fast and loose with the notions of showbiz relationships and May-December romances. It’s not endorsing or winking at inappropriate older guy-younger girl relationships. It’s actually a sly capturing of a problem sometimes found within the entertainment industry and super-wealthy lah-lah circles. Louis C.K. doesn’t try to erotically or amusing entertain as much as push those “oh, shit” or “ahh, yes” buttons. It’s obviously a doleful Woody Allen-esque comedy of sorts, but it’s also a kind of familial tragedy.

And Malkovich is quietly brilliant as the libertine, Leslie Goodwin. Maybe I was tired or in the wrong kind of mood when I saw ILYD two or three weeks ago, but I somehow didn’t quite realize how mesmerizing his performance is until last night.

But that’s all out the window now because of a just-published N.Y. Times report about Louis C.K. having masturbated in front of (or asking to masturbate in front of) four female comics — Dana Min Goodman, Julia Wolov, Abby Schachner and Rebecca Corry — and a fifth woman who experienced something similar but asked The Times for anonymity.

What Louis C.K. is accused of having done is obviously appalling and reprehensible and serious as a heart attack, but at the same time it’s a shame that an unusually interesting and even subversive film like I Love You, Daddy will now most likely be shunned and tossed into the waste basket.

But those are the rules. Once you’ve been outed or accused of sexual harassment or assualt by reputable journalists who’ve spoken with named and verified sources, your work is discredited, your friends and colleagues don’t want to know you, and your career is most likely over, at least for the foreseeable future.

The Orchard, the distributor of I Love You, Daddy, is apparently thinking of washing its hands. The New York premiere of I Love You, Daddy has been canceled. The comedian’s planned appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has also been deep-sixed.