“The following actually happened. My Dad asked me to tell you it didn’t.”
One thing I can honestly tell you going into SXSW Film Festival is, I didn’t expect to utter the words, “Patton Oswalt is in the best film I’ve seen from the festival so far”. But alas, here I am with “I LOVE MY DAD”, from first time writer/director James Morosini – who picks up the co-lead role as well, which makes sense as it’s his story that is being told, though as noted by the opening credit quote, his dad says it never did. And away we go on one of the most entertaining road trip comedies to come along in some time.
The story opens with Franklin (James Morosini), leaving a mental health institution having gone through a treatment program after a suicide attempt, leaving his mother Diane (Amy Landecker), overtly concerned about his well-being. While in group therapy, Franklin decided to set some “emotional boundaries” for himself, with the very first one being with his father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt). Chuck has always been a distanced dad in Franklin’s life, one who calls or posts on his sons social media sites, but always missing the big moments from his life leaving Franklin to have always felt he doesn’t care. So Franklin does what we all do when we ‘break up’ with someone, he blocks his father on social media and his phone, which in turn, freaks his dad out once he realizes what has happened.
From there what takes place can only be believed if it is seen as Chuck, feeling left out of his sons life, becomes “Becca” played wonderfully by Claudia Sulewski, a local waitress from the diner in town. Setting up a in ‘real life’ relationship with his own son, knowing well before hand, it’s not going to end well. But before you know it, there he is, driving his son to Maine to meet his dream girl all the while digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole as the trip progresses. You might ask yourself what kind of person would do this – yet alone to their own son – well that is what makes the story here as if there ever was an award for ‘worst dad ever’, then we would have a strong candidate for the winner right here with Chuck.
Of course, there must be some liberties taken as Morosini handles the story with aplomb in the way he dictates the pace, taking it to various levels and making it all the more uncomfortable for his father character along the way. With the adding of catfish lies, the discomfort level raises both comedically adding a tense, crazy suspense, knowing the outcome here is going to be brutal. The weaving in of wonderfully filmed sequences wherein it’s like Becca and him are together, with the bringing text sequences to life, only adds to this.
In the end, the success of this entire film is brought down on it’s leads with a lot of us forgetting that Patton Oswalt is not just a stand up comedian, but can really act, including myself as told in the opening lines here, but then you remember ‘United States of Tara’ or ‘Justified’ and it all comes back to you. As for Morosini, he is gold here – not just doing double duty, but triple duty and it all comes to fruition. Add in a great supporting cast of Lil Rey Howery as Chuck’s friend Jimmy, who tries to tell him how wrong what he is doing really is, and his kinda girlfriend Erica, the always wonderful Rachel Dratch, and you’ve got yourself the Grand Jury Prize winner for Narrative Feature as SXSW Film Festival folks.
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