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Film Review: Patton Oswalt’s Tremendous Turn in ‘I Love My Dad’ Manages to Find the Heart in An Icky Premise

Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures

Good or bad, it’s terrific that a film like I Love My Dad exists in the first place. Bold, weird, and fully aware that a large swarth of people will hate it, there’s an odd joy in movies that are prepared to throw caution to the wind. Luckily, I found the flick to be amusing, emotional, and really well acted, so I’m certainly on the positive side. At the same time, I’m not unaware that the premise is so cringe-inducing that the audience is quite limited. Destined to become a cult film, it’s actually something that leaves way more of a lasting impression than you might expect.

I Love My Dad will put off plenty of folks, but it’s also unafraid of those prospects. In a way, that’s what sets the movie apart from other cringe comedies, in that it’s smart enough to know that the premise won’t work for everyone. That being said, Patton Oswalt is so good in the lead role, it’s impossible not to still recommend this one widely. He’s operating on a high-wire and doing it with aplomb.

Magnolia Pictures

For years, Chuck (Oswalt) has been an estranged father to Franklin (James Morosini). When the latter decides to cut off contact and block the former on social media, desperate measures are needed. Taking the anecdotal advice of a co-worker (Lil Rel Howery) a little too literally, Chuck comes up with a way to stay in his son’s life. Since he always just kept up with him on Facebook, his plan is to create a new account and friend him. However, he chooses to make a profile using the name and pictures of Becca (Claudia Sulewski), a pretty waitress at a diner he frequents. Then, Franklin responds to his friend request. Faced with options, Chuck decides to just pretend he’s Becca, not realizing the mess he’s about to create.

Caught up in the improbable 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 that he hasn’t in years. So, what’s a little sexting? Everyone he tells is mortified, but Chuck is compelled to continue, even when Franklin wants to meet Becca. Of course, the house of cards will eventually fall, and what of their relationship then? The answer may surprise you.

Magnolia Pictures

Patton Oswalt excels in this sort of a role. Big Fan and Young Adult showed how great he is in tough parts, and this is just more evidence. He’s unafraid to be equal parts unlikeable and sympathetic. Truly, it’s a role few could play. James Morosini is slightly more one note, but also incredibly on point with who his character is. His chemistry with both Oswalt and Claudia Sulewski (who’s a secret weapon here in a more complex part than you realize) does shine. Lil Rel Howery is a bit wasted, but still has an amusing scene or two to work with. Supporting players include Rachel Dratch, Amy Landecker, and Ricky Velez, but Oswalt is really the star.

Filmmaker and co-star James Morosini is telling this tale with utter fearlessness. Now, the fact that this is somewhat based on his real life is a whole other ball of wax, but Morosini opting to write, direct, and star in this is really something. The boldness with which Morosini cuts between Chuck and Becca during some very uncomfortable scenes shows a confidence, to be sure. There may not be anything too stylish on display here in I Love My Dad, but it’s absolutely fearless work on Morosini’s part. Without question, I’m curious to see what he does next.

I Love My Dad isn’t for everyone, but the performance from Patton Oswalt is so good, it demands your attention. He’s good enough that, even if cringe comedy isn’t quite your thing, Oswalt still makes this a film worth checking out. Brace yourself for a premise that goes there, to say the least, and the movie will reward your leap of faith.

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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