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I Love My Dad (A Movie Review)

I LOVE MY DAD (2022)

Starring Patton Oswalt, James Morosini, Claudia Sulewski, Rachel Dratch, Ricky Velez, Lil Rel Howery, Amy Landecker, Sarah Helbringer, Shari Fairchild, Seamus Callahan, J.P. Edwards, Afrim Gjonbalaj, Zae'on James, Patrick Klein, Ricky Pak, Mike Sutton and Jon Seeber.

Screenplay by James Morosini.

Directed by James Morosini.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.

I Love My Dad rides on a concept which is sort of a nightmare scenario for today’s social media-driven world. What if that pretty new woman you met online and are starting to have feelings for turns out to actually be your dad?

That is going to take some serious therapy to get over.

Being catfished by your parent – even if it is done with only the best of intentions – seems like it may be the idea behind a comedy. In fact, about 15-20 years ago a very similar storyline was the catalyst behind the romantic comedy The Perfect Man. (Although in that film the roles were flipped, a teenaged daughter pretended to romance her lovelorn mother in order get her to notice the cute bar-owner nearby.)

Interestingly, while there is much that is very funny about I Love My Dad, this film does take a much more serious look at the whole situation. Dad decided on this admittedly very drastic course of action because he was being ignored by his estranged, depressed and possibly suicidal son, and the situation just blew up on him in ways he never quite expected. (Granted, he probably should have expected it to get way too complicated, but still, it was mostly coming from a pure place.)

Making I Love My Dad even more interesting is the fact that it is apparently based on a real-life scenario which occurred to writer/director/co-star James Morosini. And while his closeness to the subject is a bit of a double-edged sword – he tends to eventually let his dad off the hook for some very questionable choices – it does make for an interesting take.

Morosini plays Franklin, a severely depressed 20-something who is recently out of rehab and living with his mom (Amy Landecker). His dad Chuck (Patton Oswalt) is mostly out of the picture due to a contentious divorce and living in a different town. He’s trying to keep up with his son and trying to help him with his problems, but Franklin won’t answer any of his calls and has blocked him on social media.

Therefore dad creates a profile to keep an eye on his son, and maybe give him an occasional “buck-up” speech if he needs one. Chuck uses a sweet waitress at a local diner named Becca (Claudia Sulewski) as the inspiration for the catfish – he basically copies all her Facebook posts and pictures onto his own fake account – and friends his son on social media. He even imagines that someday Becca would make a nice girl for his son to eventually meet.

Nope, that doesn’t sound like that was all that well thought out.

Honestly, it wasn’t. Through much of I Love My Dad the audience is wondering what the heck Chuck is doing and how he could possibly delude himself that any of this would work out. However, like I said, he was doing it from good intentions.

Naturally, Franklin finds himself being attracted to Becca, and things start spinning totally out of control. Franklin wants to talk with Becca on the phone, wants to Facetime, wants to meet, wants to sext – all as dad looks on in horror. Still, he has to sell it, so Chuck does play along. He even eventually involves a woman coworker that he is dating off and on (Rachel Dratch).

It’s a high-wire act to play, and Patton Oswalt does a masterful job in the role, essentially selling the slightly unbelievable character and making him likable and understandable. Sulewski also does very well in a particularly complex role – she is playing Franklin’s fantasy version of Becca more often than she is actually playing the real character, and she makes both versions believable and distinct. In fact, of the leads, only writer-director Morosini somewhat disappoints, just because Franklin is such an inscrutable character that it is a little difficult to get a handle on him.

You know none of this can end well, and mostly it doesn’t, and yet I Love My Dad does leave open the opportunity of healing. Like the dad himself, this movie is sometimes a little awkward and sometimes just wrong, but it has its heart in the right place.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: August 4, 2022.

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