The logline for the movie “I Love My Dad” contains the phrase “Inspired by a true story. Like, this literally happened to me.” And that’s the fact, roughly.
Written by, directed by and starring James Morosini, it’s primarily based on one thing that really occurred between the filmmaker and his father. Throughout a interval of estrangement, Morosini’s dad arrange a faux social media account posing as a beautiful younger girl and struck up an internet friendship with Morosini.
Within the movie, Franklin (Morosini) is a twentysomething at a low interval in his life, directionless and depressed. His father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt), who has an excuse for each letdown and mistake, by no means accepts duty for his personal failed parenting. After Franklin blocks him on social media, Chuck begins an account within the persona of a fairly younger waitress named Becca (Claudia Sulewski) and strikes up a relationship with Franklin that escalates shortly. Finally, Chuck takes Franklin on a street journey to satisfy on-line Becca in particular person, and the reality collides with a rigorously constructed fantasy.
Ostensibly a comedy, the movie plumbs the emotional depths of Franklin’s despair and Chuck’s lack of ability to come clean with all of the methods he has let his son down. The movie’s unflinching portrait of its outlandish premise locations it excessive on the meter of cringe-worthy moments.
“Those are my favorite kinds of stories,” Morosini mentioned in a current interview, “the ones that seem like maybe you shouldn’t be telling them.
“I really didn’t want to make a broad comedy. I didn’t want to let the audience off the hook that easy. So you can’t quite tell, is this supposed to be funny or is this really sad? It keeps your mind having to interrogate what this is supposed to be. I think that’s how things feel often in life where you’re laughing and then you’re crying.”
Oswalt didn’t totally consider it was a real story when he first learn the script, till Morosini defined it himself.
“I just read it, and it said like ‘based on a true story,’ but I thought he was doing a fake-out like in ‘Fargo,’” mentioned Oswalt. “And then he was like, ‘No, here’s what happened.’ And he told me. I was like, ‘Well, I gotta do this.’”
The movie is the second written by, directed by and starring Morosini following 2018’s microbudget “Threesomething,” a examine of male friendship by way of the emotional problems round a threesome. As an actor, Morosini, 32, has had quite a few different roles together with “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and “American Horror Story.” “I Love My Dad” received each the grand jury prize and the viewers award when it premiered earlier this yr on the South by Southwest Movie Pageant in Austin, Texas, and is now in theaters and on VOD.
In making ready for the function, Oswalt didn’t meet with or communicate to Morosini’s father earlier than capturing.
“I didn’t want to think about that. Whatever was in the script was real, even if it’s made up,” mentioned Oswalt. “It doesn’t matter whether this is real or not. I’ve got to make each scene feel real. Did this really happen? It doesn’t matter if it’s happening in the script.”
Morosini’s father didn’t learn the script earlier than capturing and noticed the movie for the primary time sitting together with his son amid a packed viewers throughout one of many screenings at SXSW. Morosini recalled that it was an emotional expertise for each of them.
“I felt very protective of him, honestly, and my dad in reality has been a really great father in a lot of ways,” mentioned Morosini. “I think everybody has limitations, and Chuck in the movie has limitations, but the movie is really a kind of a love letter back to my dad. It feels like I’m kind of lovingly catfishing him back.”
As for his father’s response, Morosini mentioned, “I mean, he loved it. I think he appreciated the kind of emotional puzzle of the film. I think he just intellectually appreciated that, so I think it made it an easier pill to swallow.”
The film very a lot goes there, together with scenes of a few of the awkward on-line encounters one flashes on when occupied with the preliminary premise — one phrase: “sexting” — however Morosini prefers to not get too far into what did or didn’t really occur between himself and his father.
“If I were an audience member, I’d definitely be very curious. I just think that the answer is so much less satisfying than the question,” mentioned Morosini. “Knowing the particulars of what happened and what didn’t happen is kind of like learning how a magician does a trick. It stops being interesting. Wonder is something I really appreciate in other films and something that I want to preserve with the experience of this film.”
To organize for their very own onscreen relationship, Morosini and Oswalt watched plenty of films collectively. Amongst their selections have been tales of fathers struggling to reconnect with their kids by any means comparable to Sandra Hüller’s “Toni Erdmann,” Chris Columbus’ “Mrs. Doubtfire” and Ronald Bronstein’s fearlessly singular “Frownland.”
“It was important to both of us that we were setting out to make the same film and that we were trying to hit a very precise target tonally,” Morosini mentioned. “So he and I talked a lot about exactly the kind of movie we’re trying to make, and process-wise, we rehearsed a ton. We were really trying to be intentional with the kind of movie we were trying to make.”
Even in any case their preparations and rehearsal, Morosini was nonetheless shocked by how vivid Oswalt’s efficiency was as soon as manufacturing started.
“There was a couple moments where we were shooting it, and I had to remind myself that I’m not just there to appreciate his great work but I need to be acting opposite him and directing him as well,” mentioned Morosini. “There were a couple moments that I was genuinely very moved, when I was acting with him in a scene or watching him, I was almost startled by how affected I was by what he was connecting to in the story.”
At occasions, Oswalt even shocked himself.
“There was a scene where I’m basically having a nervous breakdown and when the scene was over, I had to go FaceTime my wife and she had to kind of bring me down,” mentioned Oswalt. “And I was like, ‘Was I a bad dad?’ Freaking out thinking I was on the road, so I couldn’t be there. That was really tough.”
The a part of Chuck is a uncommon main function for Oswalt, who has a protracted profession as a humorist and actor in movie and tv. His final true lead was the darkish indie “Big Fan” in 2009, for which he was nominated for a Gotham Award. His supporting function in 2011’s “Young Adult” additionally earned him quite a few accolades from critics teams.
Which isn’t to say that Oswalt has not been extraordinarily busy. A easy scan of his Twitter bio mentions sufficient initiatives to fill another person’s complete resume, together with the Netflix collection “Sandman” and an upcoming comedy particular, “Patton Oswalt: We All Scream,” which marks his directorial debut. He co-created the animated collection “M.O.D.O.K.” on which he voices the title character and likewise writes comedian books.
However, Oswalt understands why he isn’t usually tapped for lead roles.
“Look at how I look. I get really fun character actor parts, but you don’t put Dwight Frye or Warren Oates as the lead to your big budget film,” he mentioned. “I hate to use the word ‘bankability’ like I’m a f—’ agent, but it just depends. I always want to serve the project. So if I’m the lead in something, but it’s going to ruin it, I don’t want to be s— in something good. If I’m going to work better as a side character, I’d way rather do that and be great in a couple of scenes than, ’Well, he was the lead, but he should have just been in that for 10 minutes.’”
“I aspire to be a Ned Beatty, Billy Green Bush, that whole ’70s era of great character actors,” mentioned Oswalt. “I would love to have that kind of career. If I could have Martin Balsam’s career, I’d be happy as a clam.”
The movie additionally marks Oswalt’s first producer credit score on a function, a call born partially from a technique he acknowledges has a number of motives.
“If I can start increasing my profile as a producer, not only does it mean that I can produce my own things, but if there’s some project that I see someone struggling with, than I want to do whatever I can to help,” Oswalt mentioned. “It’s like me headlining theaters. Now I get to bring new comics that I really, really like to come out and open for me and expose them to a wider audience.
“So it’s partially a form of cinema buff greed where I want more stuff that I like to get made,” Oswalt added. “That’s always been my philosophy. The reason I got into show business was I started off liking movies. I didn’t start off liking money and fame. I liked the movies, so I want those to happen. Everything else is just incidental.”
The method of constructing “I Love My Dad” was an emotional one for Morosini, and he hopes to take audiences on an identical emotional roller-coaster journey.
“I think Franklin in the beginning of the movie sees things as very black and white, people are either good or bad, honest or dishonest,” he mentioned. ”And by the tip of the movie, he realizes we’re all good and unhealthy. We’re all trustworthy and dishonest. And I feel he sees himself in his dad by the tip. And I feel that’s what I realized as effectively by way of making the movie, extra deeply appreciating that if we have been in these circumstances, we’d do the identical actual factor.
“We’re all dishonest in some way or another,” Morosini added, “and I wanted to make a movie where there weren’t any good guys or bad guys and force audiences to kind of reckon with that idea.”