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

  • I Love My Dad
  • Written and directed by James Morosini
  • Starring Patton Oswalt, James Morosini and Claudia Sulewski
  • Classification R; 96 minutes
  • Opens in select theatres

A whole lot of mistakes are made in writer-director-star James Morosini’s new indie comedy I Love My Dad, a ridiculously cringe-y concoction that might be the most uncomfortable watch of the summer (and that’s including the end credits of Thor: Love and Thunder).

Comedian Patton Oswalt stars as Chuck, a compulsive liar who constantly disappoints his son, the suicidal young man Franklin (Morosini). After Franklin blocks his dad on Facebook, the only way the two have been communicating as of late, Chuck makes a decision so abhorrent that it would be hard to swallow if Morosini doesn’t preface his own film with the disclaimer that this is, mostly, based on his own life story.

Take that admission for what it is, but few would survive, let alone dramatize, the experience of having their own father “catfish” them. That is: 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 proceeds to initiate an online relationship with Franklin in a supremely baffling attempt to reconnect with his son.

It is, basically, social-media enabled incest, complete with graphic sexting. And, naturally, it ends horribly, in the silliest, most only-in-bad-movies way possible. Maybe this all happened, maybe it didn’t. But there are only a few minutes of believability in Morosini’s film, all of them courtesy of Oswalt’s high-wire act of a performance. A loathsome creation who barely evolves from the base level of noxious, Chuck is nevertheless afforded a few precious wisps of humanity by Oswalt. The comic actor is so strong that he almost allows the film to function like a nuanced character study, instead of its preferred mode of endless wincing.

Director Morosini commits to his perverted premise, pushing the intense unpleasantness as far as he possibly can.brett roedel/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Oswalt’s work here echoes his role in the similarly uncomfortable but far sturdier 2009 film Big Fan, which focused on a deluded antihero who was emotionally wounded instead of inexplicably demented. But Oswalt cannot compensate for Morosini’s biggest unforced error: casting himself.

Not for a second does the 32-year-old filmmaker fit the bill of the shy, lonely twentysomething Franklin, a fact that the writer-director-star-parental-victim seems to tacitly acknowledge, adopting an embarrassing sunken-shoulder routine in a miscalculated attempt to appear younger. The disparity between Franklin’s character and Morosini’s on-screen presence is further underlined when he’s acting against Sulewski, who so naturally, effortlessly embodies the energy and charisma of untested youth.

Credit where it’s due, though: Morosini commits to his perverted premise, pushing the intense unpleasantness as far as he possibly can. The director fumbles frequently, but at least he is confident enough in his uneven vision to push through all (warranted) doubts and deliver a story that is every bit awful as it is uncompromising.

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