Chuck (Patton Oswalt) isn’t winning any “Father of the Year” trophies any time soon. When we first meet him, he is on a walk with his young son Franklin. On this walk, Chuck and Franklin find an adorable puppy and Chuck asks Franklin if he wants to keep it, to which Franklin happily replies yes. A few seconds later, we see a sign for a lost dog, with a picture of the puppy Chuck and Franklin just found pictured. Chuck rips the sign down because he wants nothing more than to make his son happy.
Despite Chuck’s constant efforts to make his son happy, he never does. Through the opening credits of James Morosini’s family dramedy, I Love My Dad, we hear numerous voicemails that Chuck has left his son. None of the voicemails are good, as Chuck discusses his divorce from Chuck’s mother or there is some sort of apology from Chuck about missing something major in Franklin’s life, like a birthday or high school graduation. Chuck continuously pleads to Franklin that he wants to see him and be part of his life, even though he never follows through.
This has taken a toll on Franklin. He is now in his twenties and about to be discharged from a mental health clinic after a failed suicide attempt. In this clinic, Franklin has made the big life step to eliminate his father entirely from his life. He’s blocked his phone number, blocked him on social media, there is no way Chuck can contact Franklin. When Chuck finds out, he freaks out and desperately wants to stay in contact with his son. So how does he do that? He creates a Facebook profile of a girl named Becca, inspired by a diner waitress he once talked to and begins talking to Franklin that way. Skeptical at first, Franklin begins to have open up to “Becca” and have deep and meaningful conversations all through the phone. The closer Franklin and Becca become, the more chaotic this situation becomes for Chuck, especially when Franklin reaches out to him for a favor.
A comedy about a dad catfishing his suicidal son as an attractive young woman on Facebook sounds like a weird, far-fetched comedy idea, right? But the crazy thing is that this story is true and happened to Morosini himself. In one of the ultimate cringe-comedies in recent years, Morosini takes this true-life event and gives us a funny, sweet, gut-turning comedy about a desperate father trying to make up for lost time with his son.
Beyond writing and directing the film, Morosini also stars in the film as the older Franklin. His performance is just as strong as his writing and directing and he gives a sympathetic performance as a guy who is just trying to find happiness. Becca is played by Claudia Sulewski in an entertaining and lovely performance as a character who exudes the warmth and charm that Franklin believes she has.
Patton Oswalt gives his best performance as an actor as Chuck and shows he is more than just a great comedian. Oswalt easily excels at the comedic sequences, but I was most impressed by how he didn’t make Chuck a monster and made us actually feel sympathy towards him. What Chuck did was horrible and the longer the catfishing went on the worse it got. But Oswalt’s portrayal of Chuck as a sad man desperate to keep his son in his life and one who recognizes how terrible he has been in the past is compelling to watch. We’ve never seen Oswalt in a performance like this and I would love to see him do more roles like this in the future.
Despite a rushed and predictable finale, there is a lot of heart, humor, and charm in I Love My Dad. Morosini shows that he is a triple-threat talent and someone to look out for in the future.
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