This movie languished in Louis C.K.’s vault for a decade after he made it. Watching it today you can see why: it’s not that it’s bad, but it is weird enough that it would have been hard to sell this to a wide audience if it was just a side project by a writer of the Conan O’Brien show. Now that he’s become “Louis C.K.” and people have digested his style after a few well-respected seasons of Louie the odds of the movie finding it’s intended audience are much better.
So the question is: should this movie have been kept locked away? How does it compare to what he’s accomplished since he made it?
Tomorrow Night is definitely interesting for fans of Louie’s work because it contains the seeds of what he would later become – the mixture of absurdism, filthiness and awkwardness will be familiar to anyone who has seen Louie – but it is also markedly different. His personal life is often a starting point for his show, whether that’s telling a vignette about being a father or dissecting what it means to be a stand up on the road, but there’s very little in this movie that feels personal, and the main character is very different than Louis C.K. seems to be – he’s anal, rude and not much of a talker. He lacks the self depreciation that makes C.K.s’ rougher edges palatable.
In fact, the main character is the weakest part of the movie. The supporting players are a cast of freaks that wouldn’t be out of place in a John Waters movie, so I kind of see why Louis might write a center that was so much more uptight - he needed a brick wall for those weirdos to bounce off of. Still, it can be frustrating to be stuck spending the most time with the least interesting character. Chuck Sklar is not quite a charisma blackhole, but he does underplay so much that he really keeps the early going of the movie grinding slowly, and as he fades into becoming another part of the ensemble rather than the focus the movie picks up steam.
I feel like anyone who has read a little bit about this movie probably has their expectations properly calibrated. Yes, it’s lumpy in spots and not all of the gags work. Yes, it’s more derivative than his show, with clear strains of Jim Jarmusch, John Waters and Woody Allen peeking through. But if you can accept it as a learning exercise and stomach some of the slower bits then you’ll get some good laughs. (Mostly at Lester, who is a total screaming nutjob and I mean that in the best possible way.)