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I Love My Dad’s stranger-than-fiction tale succeeds through sheer will

I Love My Dad

James Morosini enlists the great Patton Oswalt to bring the time his dad catfished him to the silver screen.

For writer/director/star James Morosini, I Love My Dad acts as therapy. The self-reflexive comedy-drama finds Morosini telling a story of a father catfishing his son to get back into his good graces, a true-ish story from his own life. Morosini is joined by Patton Oswalt, playing his pseudo-dad named Chuck, in one of the veteran comedian’s meatier roles of the last decade. Oswalt has the unenviable job of being distant yet hoping to remain close, of playing the roles of Franklin’s (Morosini) online girlfriend and absent father. He performs it with gentle, manic, absurd brilliance.  

I Love My Dad follows Franklin and Chuck as they go on a road trip to meet the former’s online girlfriend, Becca (YouTuber Claudia Sulewski), a Facebook stranger with zero friends and an unwillingness to hop on the phone. Fresh out of a stint in a recovery center after an attempted suicide, Franklin feels understood for the first time, unearthing a digital love that sprouted without any seeds. He’s shut Chuck out of his life, blocked him on all social accounts, and in response, this oft-selfish father creates a profile mirroring Becca, an unknowing, harmless waitress at a local diner.   

I Love My Dad
I Love My Dad – Magnolia Pictures

The cringe comedy adheres to this premise to the fullest extent, complete with father-son imaginary makeout sessions and a sexting conversation that will likely cause most viewers to squirm in their seats. Though it has little new to say and stylistically paints inside the lines, Morosini’s retelling of his life contains value due to the director’s willingness to show this entire situation on-screen. The two men work together as a duo, a believable pairing who have both been lost during this period of their lives.  

As expected, the film’s recoiling humor ebbs and flows, stretching its conceit beyond normal boundaries. It’s something to imagine where these two people would be without one another, and unclear how much Chuck makes Franklin’s life better. For Chuck, his obvious motivations shouldn’t necessarily outweigh his means of reconnecting with his son. Oswalt gives the father a sweetness that he doesn’t deserve, a tenderness that can seem inauthentic, and a likability that runs contrary to his actions.  

I Love My Dad
I Love My Dad – Magnolia Pictures

But it’s tiring to question and fault Morosini for telling this story, one that made a startling impact on him. The film carries his anger, frustration, surprise, and initial hopefulness. Who am I to say how to respond to a situation like this? The emotion in Morosini’s film never feels manufactured, never donned solely by the camera. It’s a humble, human story about two people attempting to reconnect in any way imaginable.  

Oswalt’s performance, along with Morosini’s vulnerability, creates a short but sweet film that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Running a tight 90 minutes, the director opts to jump into this story without much background, unwilling to dig into the details before or after this catfishing road trip, causing initial strain in relating to these characters. Yet, Oswalt’s committed performance carries the film beyond its script. He’s a sad sap, a man that has consistently made the wrong decision over the last two decades, leading him to the point of desperation. And the comedian plays that desperation with ease, alternating between likable and despicable in equal measure, winning over the audience due to sheer force of will rather than any grand gesture.   

I Love My Dad
I Love My Dad – Magnolia Pictures

I’m not sure I Love My Dad is a particularly well-made film. Still, it’s well-intentioned, featuring actors tapping into trueness within them and a director looking for another level of catharsis. In a rare battle between the two, intentions win out, and Morisini, and his audience, can breathe a sigh of relief by the time we all reach this film’s destination.  

I Love My Dad is now in theaters and available on demand.

I Love My Dad Trailer:

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