- Movie Rating -

I Love My Dad (2022)

| August 17, 2022

James Morosini’s I Love My Dad is a wonderful comedy of escalating embarrassment.  It takes a simple idea and balloons it up into broad comedy so tense that, during the climax, I almost couldn’t look at the screen.  It involves a father trying to connect with his son by creating an online persona so they can have some kind – any kind – of relationship.  As creepy at that sounds, it works.

Creating a secret online persona is, of course, the dumbest idea that anyone could have, an idea that could only end with embarrassment and hurt feelings, and given the bizarre nature of social media itself, I wasn’t surprised that it was based on a true story.  This actually happened to writer/director James Morosini who stars in the film as Franklin, a broken young man who has just walked out of a Massachusetts rehab facility after attempting suicide.  Piled on top of these problems is the strained relationship that he has with his father Chuck (Patton Oswalt), a well meaning but thoughtless loser whose countless failed attempts to form a bond with his son have only left a wall of destruction that has currently severed whatever lines of communication were open to him.  Given that, Franklin has blocked all contact with his dad, refusing his calls and refusing to talk to him even through social media. 

Then a bolt from the blue.  Franklin is contacted via chat by a young woman named Becca whom he doesn’t know and seems to contact him out of nowhere.  He’s suspicious.  Why doesn’t she have other friends?  Why does she seem hesitant to answer rudimentary questions?  Well, that’s because it’s Chuck on the other side of the screen who has borrowed the name of a pretty waitress (Claudia Sulewski) that he met at a cafeteria up in Maine.  She advised him – “Talking to people is a good start”.  Stealing pictures from her actual account, Chuck builds an entire online persona, chats it up with Franklin who, naturally,  falls in love with her.

Of course, as a screenwriter Morosini plays this disturbing scenario for all its worth and his masterstroke is the casting of Patton Oswalt as his dad.  Oswalt is one of the most learned of comic minds and he’s also a very good actor.  But he also has the schlubby hound dog look of a portly man who seems to have been defeated by life (I can relate).  What Chuck is doing is disturbing, desperate, reckless and more than a little creepy.  But Oswalt’s performance is so good that actually kinda feel for him.  Chuck is a terrible father doing a terrible thing but one has to feel for a man so desperate to get his damaged son to feel good about something, or someone, that he would play this elaborate game with his emotions.  If his performance weren’t so good and so endearing, the movie would be unwatchable.  It helps that Morosini has mixed into the comedy some very funny observations of the clumsy “dad-view” of modern technology – smart phones, chat rooms, tech lingo, etc.

But where the movie really comes alive is how Morosini visualizes the conversations with Becca.  The conversations happen on the computer and on the phone, but they are visualized to us as actual conversations – when Franklin is talking to Becca, she actually appears in the room.  While he’s texting her in the car, she appears in the backseat.  This is a terrific device because it helps build the beguiling nature of Becca’s personality (and it saves us the drudgery of having to read line after line of text).  The device is also helpful in the fantasy sequences as Franklin becomes more and more insistent on having online sex.  This is where Oswalt’s skills as a physical comedian come into play.  There is an online kiss that alters between the chat visualization and the real world that becomes the single biggest laugh in the movie.

In this, the performance that makes the movie work is Claudia Sulewski.  Oswalt is well-known and is getting most of the credit, but Sulewski is just as key to the movie’s success.  It is she who has to alternate between Chuck’s avatar version of Becca and Franklin’s perception of her.  She’s really playing three roles here: Chuck version, Franklin’s perception and then the real-world Becca who is oblivious to any of this.

Morosini’s performance is good too as a guy who spends his adulthood ironing out the damage caused by his father.  But as a filmmaker, he has a sure hand.  Comedy is all in the pacing, the editing, the dialogue.  If any of these things are off-balance then the comedy doesn’t work and he seems to understand this.  This is a high-energy comedy with a plot that could implode at any moment if any of the pieces don’t work.  But he knows what he’s doing, and this is a terrific comedy.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy