Review: The spasmodic pseudo-incest comedy I Love My Dad is the most uncomfortable movie of the year

Patton Oswalt and James Morosini in I Love My Father.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

  • i love my father
  • Written and directed by James Morosini
  • With Patton Oswalt, James Morosini, and Claudia Sulewski
  • classification R; 96 minutes
  • opens in selected theaters

Lots of mistakes are made in the new indie comedy from writer, director and star James Morosini i love my fathera ridiculously spasmodic concoction that might just be the most uncomfortable watch of the summer (and that includes the end credits of Thor: Love and Thunder).

Comedian Patton Oswalt plays Chuck, a compulsive liar who constantly disappoints his son, the suicidal young man Franklin (Morosini). After Franklin blocks his father on Facebook, the only way the two have communicated lately, Chuck makes a decision so heinous it would be hard to swallow if Morosini didn’t preface his own film with the disclaimer that for the most part it is, based on his own life story.

Take that admission for what it is, but few would survive the experience, much less dramatize, that her own father “catfished” her. That is to say: Chuck sets up a fake Facebook account pretending to be a beautiful young woman (played in imaginary sequences by actress/Instagram influencer Claudia Sulewski) and begins an online relationship with Franklin in a highly confusing attempt to reconnect with his son .

It’s basically social media-ready incest, complete with graphic sexting. And of course it ends horribly, in the silliest way only bad movies can. Maybe all of that happened, maybe not. But there are only a few minutes of credibility in Morosini’s film, all thanks to Oswalt’s high-wire performance. Chuck is a hideous creation that barely evolves from base noxiousness, and yet Chuck receives a few precious scraps of humanity from Oswalt. The comic actor is so strong that he almost makes the film seem like a nuanced character study, instead of the usual endless cringe.

Director Morosini owns his perverted premise and pushes the intense awkwardness as far as he can.Brett Roedel/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Oswalt’s work here mirrors his role in the similarly uncomfortable but far more robust 2009 film Big fan, which focused on an infatuated antihero who was emotionally wounded rather than inexplicably insane. But Oswalt can’t compensate for Morosini’s biggest unforced mistake: throwing himself.

Not for a second does the 32-year-old filmmaker fit the bill of shy, lonely twenty-something Franklin, a fact the writer-director-star-parent-victim seems to be tacitly acknowledging by adopting an awkward, sunken-shouldered routine of miscalculated attempt to look younger. The discrepancy between Franklin’s character and Morosini’s screen presence is further emphasized when he acts against Sulewski, who so naturally and effortlessly embodies the energy and charisma of an untried youth.

Credit where it’s due: Morosini owns his perverted premise and pushes the intense unpleasantness as far as it can. The director fumbles frequently, but at least he’s confident enough in his uneven vision to overcome any (justified) doubts and deliver a story that’s as horrific as it is uncompromising.

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