• Tue, Nov 23 2010

‘Daddy I Do’ Is A Confusing But Well-Intentioned Portrait of Sex and Religion

I first heard about the movie Daddy I Do on a feminist website that writes about sexuality, so I got the impression that the documentary primarily dealt with the purity ball phenomenon. While the beginning of the film features a daughter getting dressed up to attend a purity ball and her dad giving a voiceover about why he wants to raise his daughter to be ‘pure,’ that’s about all the time devoted to purity balls. After that, the film is on a rollercoaster pace, with the subject changing every five minutes or so. First, we meet a guy who waited to have sex until his wedding night. Then we meet some frat boys (identified as such by the movie) in the South who have varying levels of sexual experience and talk about whether they’d be OK with one of their girlfriends getting an abortion. There’s also a woman who experienced multiple sexual assaults and says that becoming a mother turned her life around, a woman who had an abortion and regrets it, a doctor who thinks sex education in this country is all fucked up, and a whole parade of people on all ends of the abstinence-education spectrum. Between segments, factoids appear on the screen to explain how much money abstinence-only programs have gotten from the government and what the ACLU has to say about it.

It seems as if Daddy I Do tried so hard to stay neutral on the controversial topics of teen sexuality and sexual education that it said nothing at all. The movie is a confusing, too-fast picaresque that would have been well served by better editing. While it’s good to hear from a wide variety of people, it’s also frustrating when everyone disappears after saying their piece. Few of the speakers interact with each other (one woman’s mother refused to appear on camera and read a prepared statement offscreen, leaving the daughter to sit there making reactionary facial expressions), which removes an automatic way of creating drama. Rather than allow actual dialogue, all the ‘characters’ are presented in a vacuum. I understand that actually having some of them interact with each other would have been a logistical nightmare, as the film was shot in multiple locations, but the film feels like a series of loosely related monologues and the lack of scene setup variety combined with the single-narrator approach makes the movie visually uninteresting. The title is also confusing and misleading, since little of the movie deals with purity balls, religion, and fathers having a say in their kids’ sexual choices. Perhaps a better title might have helped unify the movie – but A Lot of People Talking for Five Minutes about An Aspect of Sexuality and Then Disappearing isn’t the catchiest title, either. Like some of the teenagers who appear in the movie, Daddy I Do seems to be suffering from a major identity crisis.

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