In early June, the controversial comedian Louis CK has announced by surprise that he is releasing a new feature film project, Fourth of Julyan independent comedy-drama that he directed, co-wrote, edited and starred in. Thursday, Fourth of July had its world premiere at a sold-out Beacon Theater in New York, with CK fans flocking to see a film that is likely to have a very limited release.
Fourth of July not only marks CK’s return to acting, but is also part of his attempts to return to the mainstream following allegations of sexual misconduct by several women. In 2017, the comedian was accused by five women to strip and masturbate in front of them – allegations he admitted to and apologized for. The allegations came at the height of the #MeToo movement and led to several companies cutting ties with CK
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Having spent the better part of the past five years as an outcast in Hollywood, CK has gradually made a return to stand-up comedy, and in April he won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album for Sincerely, Louis CK
After Fourth of Julyit is premiere, CK and the film’s cast hosted a panel discussion at the Beacon Theater, where the comedian confessed it was his first time a film in front of a live audience. “Actually, I’ve never done that,” he said. “Seeing what people are laughing at…it’s a wonderful feeling.”
CK said that Fourth of July, described by The Hollywood Reporter‘s review as “missing the acerbic side of his brilliant work on the sitcom Louis“, was self-funded. The comedian said he reached out to longtime friends and collaborators — many of whom were fellow comedians from his hometown of Boston — to bring his vision to life. Among the collaborators was comedian Joe List, the film’s co-writer and lead actor. “It wasn’t like I chose Joe for this guy,” CK said. “It was a story we wanted to tell together. It never occurred to me that someone else would play it.
In Fourth of July, List plays Jeff, a recovering alcoholic and jazz pianist living in New York. Following the advice of his therapist (played by CK), Jeff confronts his family during their annual Fourth of July vacation. The film addresses the anxiety that comes with returning home and feeling out of place even with family.
“You have your feelings, you want to go back and tell your parents that they ruined your life, that it was all their fault,” CK said of the film’s underlying themes. “What ends up happening is that he says what he was afraid to say. It didn’t necessarily happen with the effect he wanted, but it’s normal that he did. He said, “You hurt me and I hurt you. Let’s go get some pizza. It’s like – it’s going to be okay.”
CK and List said they wanted to bring a difficult but relatable family situation to their audience. The duo drew on their own experiences in therapy and communicating with loved ones.
“In real life, people don’t manage to really express themselves,” CK said. “These two,” he said, pointing to List and Sarah Tollemache, who are both married in the film. and in real life, “[they] really did this big thing of just ‘how can we say this to each other?’
“In your family, if they want you to drink and you won’t, it hurts them,” CK added “And if you won’t be like them, put on the fucking Boston t-shirts and be a fucking idiot like them is a rejection. That’s what it’s like to come home to Jeff,” he said.
Fourth of July will also screen at the Shubert Theater in Boston on July 1 and at the Vic in Chicago on July 2.
The best of The Hollywood Reporter