Movie review: Patton Oswalt’s terrific turn in ‘I Love My Dad’ manages to find heart in a gross premise

Magnolia Pictures

Good or bad, it’s great that a movie like I love my father exists in the first place. Bold, weird, and fully aware that a lot of people will hate it, there’s an eerie joy in movies that are willing to throw caution to the wind. Luckily, I found the film to be fun, moving, and very well acted, so I’m definitely on the positive side. At the same time, I am aware that the premise is so squeaky that the audience is quite limited. Destined to become a cult film, it’s actually something that leaves a far more lasting impression than you might think.

I love my father is going to put off a lot of people, but he’s also not afraid of those prospects. In a way, that’s what sets the movie apart from other squeaky comedies, in that it’s smart enough to know the premise won’t work for everyone. That being said, Patton Oswalt is so good in the lead role, it’s impossible not to highly recommend it yet. It operates on a tightrope and does so with aplomb.

Magnolia Pictures

For years, Chuck (Oswalt) was a distant father to Franklin (James Morosini). When the latter decides to cut off contact and block the former on social media, desperate measures are required. Taking anecdotal advice from a co-worker (Lil Rel Howery) a little too literally, Chuck finds a way to stay in his son’s life. Since he has always followed him on Facebook, his plan is to create a new account and friend. However, he chooses to create a profile using Becca’s name and photos (Claudia Sulewski), a pretty waitress at a restaurant he frequents. Afterwards, Franklin responds to his friend request. Faced with options, Chuck decides to pretend to be Becca, unaware of the mess he’s about to create.

Caught up in the unlikely success of his inadvertent catfishing, Chuck can’t help but dig the hole deeper, as Franklin falls in love with Becca. He knows it’s wrong, but he’s actually reaching his son in a way he hasn’t in years. So what is a little sexting? Everyone he tells is mortified, but Chuck is forced to keep going, even when Franklin wants to meet Becca. Of course, the house of cards will eventually fall, and then what about their relationship? The answer might surprise you.

Magnolia Pictures

Patton Oswalt excels in this kind of role. Big fan and young adult showed how great he is in tough games, and that’s just more proof. He is not afraid to be both unsympathetic and sympathetic. Really, it’s a role few could play. James Morosini is slightly more of a note, but also incredibly on point about who his character is. His chemistry with Oswalt and Claudia Sulewski (which is a secret weapon here in a more complex game than you might think) shines. Lil Rel Howery is a bit lost, but still has a fun scene or two to work with. Supporting players include Rachel Drach, Amy Landeckerand Ricky Velezbut Oswalt is really the star.

Filmmaker and co-star James Morosini tells this story with utter fearlessness. Now, the fact that this is somewhat based on his real life is a whole other ball of wax, but Morosini choosing to write, direct and star in this film is really something. The audacity with which Morosini cuts between Chuck and Becca during some very uncomfortable scenes shows confidence, of course. There is perhaps nothing too elegant on display here in I love my father, but it’s absolutely fearless work on Morosini’s part. Without a doubt, I’m curious to see what he does next.

I love my father isn’t for everyone, but Patton Oswalt’s performance is so good it demands your attention. It’s good enough that even if gritty comedy isn’t quite your thing, Oswalt still makes it a movie worth watching. Get ready for a premise that goes out there, to say the least, and the movie will reward your leap of faith.

SCORE: ★★★

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