I cannot imagine that any film will be more outrageous this year than James Morosini’s I LOVE MY DAD. For his sophomore effort, the young filmmaker wrote, directed, and stars in a film based on his own experience when his desperate dad ‘catfished’ him by creating a fake Facebook profile posing as a beautiful young woman to spend time with him. And if that isn’t enough to blow your rom-com expectations out of the water, wait till you see how Morosini visualizes the story. You will howl with laughter while trying to pick your jaw up off the floor for almost the entire one-hour and 36-minute run time.
Morosini plays Franklin, a put-upon twentysomething who’s been dealing with a delinquent dad Chuck (Patton Oswalt) since he was a kid. Not surprisingly, Franklin’s dysfunctional parents divorced and his history with his bad dad has taken its toll. The distraught son has attempted suicide and is now living with his mom (Amy Landecker). Chuck keeps trying to re-enter his life, but Franklin won’t take his calls and has blocked him on social media.
Nevertheless, the wildly immature and selfish Chuck finagles a way to be a part of Franklin’s world. He decides to create a fake profile of a young woman named Becca from Maine online to approach Franklin and start up a virtual relationship. This way, he can find out all about what’s going on with his son by ‘catfishing’ Franklin with a ruse.
The actual Becca (Claudia Sulewski) is an attractive young diner waitress that he met when he was feeling down, and Chuck even uses her pics on his fake profile. Soon enough, Chuck’s “Becca” starts getting closer and closer to Franklin, and it isn’t long before their texting turns into sexting. Now, Chuck is stuck having to play “the girl” as Franklin pushes her to make virtual love to him vis a vis smartphone. Soon enough, Chuck is having to come up with believably intimate language as “Becca” and even calls on his world-weary girlfriend Erica (Rachel Dratch) to help his con.
It all makes for some of the most uncomfortable comedy ever done on screen as the intimate banter earns the film its R rating. But as crazy and naughty as the words are, what makes the story all the funnier is that director Morosini has chosen to film what’s going on in both Franklin and Chuck’s imaginations. Franklin visualizes himself making love to Sulewski as Becca and that’s what we see as he fantasizes. Meanwhile, Chuck imagines himself doing it with his son as he types one X-rated sext after another. Morosini shows himself making out with Oswalt, not to mention the veteran actor’s grossed-out reactions. These images make for the funniest set-pieces on screen in many a moon.
Morosini could’ve left it there and made a supremely absurdist sex comedy, something that even expert farceur Blake Edwards wouldn’t have dared film in his day. But Morosini peppers the preposterous with pathos too, showing not only how delicate Franklin’s condition still is, but how Chuck is painfully aware of the corners he’s painted himself into. If you can catch your breath from guffawing, you might just find a lump in your throat too.
Morosini’s cast brings it all to life, especially Oswalt who makes Chuck a likable sad-sack even though his selfishness knows few bounds in the story. Dratch is as funny as you’d expect her to be, and touching in ways you might not expect. Bravo to Morosini for giving her such a rich role to run with. Sulewski is so fun in a difficult part and has such great chemistry with Morosini, that you’ll want them to play more onscreen couples. And Morosini the director doesn’t shy away from making Morosini the actor look pathetic and wholly vulnerable despite having smoldering looks that reminded me of a cross between Jim Carrey and Rudolf Nureyev.
Perhaps the premise of all those fantasy sequences wears a bit thin in the final act, but it’s probably supposed to serve the idea of how Chuck has let his ruse go on far too long. It’s probably a good thing that there are big laughs in those final scenes to balance all the inevitable seriousness that is attached to the conclusion as well.
I LOVE MY DAD, is a rom-com, literally and figuratively, between Dad and son, and you’ll be rooting for them despite Chuck’s ridiculous behavior. It’s another testament to the abilities of Morosini as a filmmaker that he can keep us laughing, cringing, and yes, hoping all at the same time despite the outrageousness of such a narrative. It’s crazy. And crazy good.