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James Morosini I Love My Dad Review


I Love My Dad | Review

I Love My Dad | Review

Sons & Lovers: Morosini Aims for Awkward in Dysfunctional Familial Dilemma

James Morosini I Love My Dad ReviewOverbearing and stifling parents have long been a staple of semi-autobiographical storytelling, but director James Morosini gives D.H. Lawrence a run for his incestuous inclined parental dysfunction with the sophomore film I Love My Dad. Like a perverse offshoot from Terms of Endearment (1983), Morosini mines the excessively awkward possibilities of unstable nuclear boundary issues with a dark comedy about catfishing and suicidal tendencies, which may too often wallow in the potential shock value of its material instead of providing any real psychological insight. Still, it’s a conversation starter of a narrative, headlined by a compelling Patton Oswalt as a distressingly selfish estranged father in what’s perhaps the comic’s best onscreen delivery since Jason Reitman’s Young Adult (2011). With a strong supporting cast and a unique visualization of our projected tendencies and longings in online commiserations, it is a fascinating scenario mining the innately taboo nature of duplicity mired in sexually risqué identity performance.

Shortly after being released from an inpatient program following a suicide attempt, Franklin (Morosini) blocks his toxic father Chuck (Oswalt) on his social platforms. It seems Chuck is one of those absent father figures who never made a real effort, working in a soul-crushing corporate job in a different state who only superficially keeps tabs on his son. In a response to the slight, Chuck, in an act of desperation, creates a fake Facebook profile after pilfering photographs of a local waitress named Becca (Claudia Sulewski). As Becca, Chuck strikes up a fast friendship with the lonesome Franklin, which quickly becomes amorous for the latter. Consulting his co-worker Jimmy (Lil Rel Howery) and confiding in his pseudo girlfriend and boss Erica (Rachel Dratch), both immediately tell Chuck to cease and desist. However, he can’t seem to help himself and soon arrives to pick up Franklin to take him on a road trip to meet the real Becca. As their journey progresses, hurt feelings turn into a sort of warm camaraderie. At least until the truth of the situation is revealed to Franklin.

James Morosini I Love My Dad Review

Initially, the set-up of I Love My Dad has all the dark-hearted promise of Bobcat Goldthwait’s nihilistic underdog World’s Greatest Dad (2009), but Morosini is more interested in redemption, skirting around catastrophic possibilities and instead providing discomfort through the realm of the imaginary (such as the handful of sequences where he’s kissing Oswalt, as seen through the eyes of both their eventual perspectives). Oswalt walks the fine line of empathetic parent and brazen narcissist, but Chuck is also hobbled by the narrative’s neglect of securely outlining the actual nature of his relationship with Franklin or ex-wife Diane (Amy Landecker). There’s still a vibrant sense of ease in the storytelling, but sans the psychological bedrock which blazed through the mother/son duo in Xavier Dolan’s semi-autobiographical debut, I Killed My Mother (2009), which would have assisted in sending this scenario off the deep end.

James Morosini I Love My Dad Review

As good as Oswalt is, his casting tends to throw off the familial energy with Morosini and Amy Landecker (in another ‘mom’ role similar to that of Cooper Raiff’s Shithouse, 2020), like a mythical imp acting as an interloper in their reality. Morosini also feels about a decade too old to star in his own story, lending some distracting elements a la Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen (2021). But there are devious and strange delights courtesy of a scene-stealing Rachel Dratch as Oswalt’s carnally inclined boss, and her revealing of the scenario to Franklin’s mother is one of the film’s best moments, a vibrant score swallowing the words which would only have distracted from Landecker’s physical distress. Likewise, Lil Rel Howery, though once again shunted into the comic relief sidelines, makes the most of his screen time as Oswalt’s wary co-worker and confidante.

A willowy Claudia Sulewski is also a graceful addition as the figment of Franklin’s boyish fantasies, a sweet and articulate visual as the covert mouthpiece for Chuck (a sexting moment where he pits Erica and Franklin into a titillating exchange is also hilarious in its provocative, uncomfortable power). Though ultimately I Love My Dad may be simply too strange for some, Morosini avoids taking this scenario down the dark road it could have easily veered into, and though we really never know who any of these characters really are, like the basis of the narrative, it’s a fun story to talk about.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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