Review by Sean Boelman
The best indie cinema projects are those which are personal, but some are so strange that it develops a different type of allure. James Morosini’s I Love My Dad is one of those films that has both a lot of heart and a premise so bizarre that it’s hard not to appreciate it in all of its strange glory.
In the movie, Oswalt plays a well-meaning father who, estranged from his son, hatches a plan to reconnect with him by catfishing him. The script is inspired by a real-life experience of its writer/director/star, and that will leave the viewer to wonder… What the heck is wrong with this family?
The comedy in James Morosini’s script leans all-in on the embarrassment factor. Many of the laughs in the film come more from how awkward and ridiculous the situation is rather than the dialogue. Even though a lot of the jokes are obvious and exactly what you would expect from the premise, they work nonetheless.
The relationship between the father and son is the emotional core of this movie, and it works quite well. However, a lot of the other dynamics feel underdeveloped. Even the romance angle, which is an important aspect of the story, feels slightly off. Perhaps because we already know how one-sided the relationship is, it’s hard to feel anything more than basic pity.
It’s a well-meaning film that has a good message about forgiveness and second chances, but it’s not as insightful as it seems to think it is. The movie also doesn’t explore any of the greater implications of the story with much depth, the lighthearted tone sometimes running counter to the darker implications of the film.
Patton Oswalt proves here that he is able to carry a movie. Many of his film roles tend to be as comedic side characters, so it’s nice to see him take center stage here. His chemistry with Morosini is great, even though Morosini is much more effective behind the camera than in front of it. And in supporting roles, Claudia Sulewski, Lil Rel Howery, Rachel Dratch are all good.
Morosini’s stylistic approach is what elevates this beyond traditional rom-com material. There is a surreal air to the movie that takes a bit of getting used to, but is charming once the film finds its rhythm. It also enables Morosini to set up some visual gags that are quite funny and impeccably timed.
I Love My Dad is in that gray area where it isn’t entirely quaint, but also isn’t super substantial. Still, it’s very funny and features a great performance from Patton Oswalt, which is more than enough to recommend it.
I Love My Dad is screening at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 11-19.