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Thread: I LOVE MY DAD (James Morosini 2022)

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    I LOVE MY DAD (James Morosini 2022)

    JAMES MOROSINI: I LOVE MY DAD (2022)


    PATTON OSWALT, JAMES MOROSINI IN I LOVE MY DAD

    A father catfishes his estranged son, impersonating a pretty girl

    This story based on fact recreates (and presumably expands on) a spectacularly ill-judged gesture that is also arguably very, very selfish. Yet behind it may be a desperate love that might explain how Morosini is on good terms with his father now. About ten years ago when he was about twenty, and very depressed, he blocked his dad from calling and social media. To get around this and know what his son was doing his father catfished him, creating the false online persona of a pretty young woman. "They" immediately got friendly and a contrived online romance followed. Then James learned he'd been punk'd. It is impossible to go on without using the words cringe or cringeworthy. I'm not saying don't watch this. It's got an energy and warmth and physical creativeness that can be engaging, and the cast can be too.

    But keeping this from being a thoroughly successful film is its wobbly tone. While Morosini, who plays Franklin, the son, and also wrote and directed, sought to achieve lightness starting with casting the giddy comic Patton Oswalt as Chuck, the father, the movie winds up seeming as much therapy for its creator as comedy. There are terribly embarrassing moments - and they go on and on, and come back to repeat themselves with more emphasis. As a result critical response has been very mixed. Barry Herz, writing for The Globe and Mail, refers toI Love My Dad as a "Super-cringe pseudo-incest comedy" and calls it "the most uncomfortable movie of the year." At the other extreme, at South by Southwest it won both the Grand Jury prize for Narrative Feature and the Audience Award. Its current Metascore is a so-so 61%.* I think it's bold and original. Morosini sort of knew when this happened to him a decade ago that it was good material. But when he got around to using it, the therapeutic process of inventive reenactment overwhelmed his sense of creating a well-made film.

    For a while, it's all pretty absorbing. Awful, and also just intriguing. To start with Franklin is just finishing a therapy group/workshop for suicidal or self-harming people. He's obviously shy but the group leader teases a share out of him and he gets applause for his declaration that he is blocking his lying and unreliable dad.

    Morosini has said he thinks Patton Oswalt is "a comedy genius." Oswalt plays Chuck as a hysterical, giggly, motormouthed little schlub. The action would arguably be even more cringe-inducing - but more meaningful - if a serious, handsome, impressive actor had been chosen. On the other hand how convincing is it for this actor to be seen as the father of this sensitive, handsome young man - who has been compared here to the Jake Gyllenhaal of Donny Darko? A more likely relative is Amy Landecker as Diane, the divorced mother whom Franklin lives with. But her involvement as a character is minimal. The main actors wind up being almost all physical business and no interiority.

    The movie's real dramatic invention comes in the way the online interactions are dramatized. Chuck has actually met his alter-ego-to-be in Carl's, the breakfast shop where she is a waitress. After chatting her up and getting her name, he finds her attractive snapshots, including ones in a bikini, on Facebook and pastes them into the identity he invents, keeping her actual first name, Becca. Claudia Sulewski is fantastic, seamless, able, playing both the real Becca, the invented Becca of Franklin's imaginings, and an in-between Becca who's showing Chuck around the edges because she's an invention. We have to think Franklin is lonely and needy enough to overlook the red flags: Chuck has to make up a story at the outset to explain why Franklin is Becca's first Facebook friend. ("A new start.")

    Of course we see Chuck make up amorous dialog that quickly leads to sexting and then to online sex, and we see Franklin in various locations, imagining Becca. Back and forth the movie goes between the schlub and the slim, sexy girl. So when there's an extended session of visualized kissing, we see Becca/Claudia frenching Frank, and we also glimpse Chuck, ew, ew, ew, frenching his son. And an extended reel of this comes at the end after the deception is out there in the open. Wendy Ide of Screen Daily speaks of a "kind of emotional gross-out comedy in which Morosini ratchets up eye-watering levels of ick." Eye-watering levels of ick. Admittedly, though, the ick is mediated constantly by engrossing business as Chuck runs around, using his unwitting girlfriend Erika (Rachel Dratch) to flesh out his deception with her voice, and frantically rushing to stave off his son's discovery of the real Becca's complete unawareness that there is anything between them. Plus there is the weird visual trip of watching the cute couple of Morosini and Claudia Sulewski, knowing Sulewski is "really" Patton Oswalt.

    Ide also says Morosini seems rather more forgiving of his father than we are inclined to be. This points to the essential frustration of treating a traumatic experience of one's youth like an extended episode from American Pie. What someone who likes films about real experience treated as such wants to know is how Morosini forgave his father and what their relationship in the period after the unmasking of the catfishing was like. But I Love My Dad would content you just with that reassuring title.

    I Love My Dad, 90 mins., debuted Mar. 12, 2022 at Austin (SXSW) winning the Grand Jury and Audience Award there. It opens Aug. 5, 2022 in San Francisco at the Balboa Theatre and Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema and San Rafael at the Smith Rafael Film Center. One week later on Aug. 12 it releases online.
    ___________
    *Currently (Aug. 7) the Metascore has dropped to 57%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-07-2022 at 09:42 AM.

  2. #2
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    A POst piece on James Morosini and I LOVE MY DAD - a core of sincerity.

    A positive profile Washington Post article on Morosini and the film today (Aug. 7) allows the sophomore filmmaker to explain what he's doing in the film in a more rounded, more positive light.
    It traces his self-preparation for becoming a filmmaker after studying at USC’s School of Dramatic Arts and having a so-so career as an actor "often cast as a bro or, like, the dumb guy" (“American Horror Story” on FX, "The Sex Lives of College Girls" on HBO Max)
    I would go down, like, the AFI Top 100. I would go down Sight & Sound’s Top 100. I would go country by country. I spent a lot of time with Éric Rohmer and became really obsessed with Michael Haneke.”
    In an interview in the article, Patton Oswalt outlines glowing prospects for the young director.
    When asked what he sees in Morosini’s future, Oswalt responded: “I have no idea where he’s headed. He’s gonna zig and zag like the great early ’70s directors. Sidney Lumet went from ‘Serpico’ to ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ to ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ to ‘Network.’ The directors that are true searchers never try to carve out a niche. They try to expand the canvas.”
    I heard a 'review' of the film yesterday on the local NPR station where several people laughed and dismissed it. Never mentioned was the fact that this is based on Morosini's actual experience of being catfished by his dad, and making up afterward. This seemed one dimensional and unjust. I realized that though I LOVE MY DAD is cringeworthy and hard to watch in places, it has that core of authenticity and sincerity that demands a degree of respect - and that explains its double win at SXSW.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-07-2022 at 09:46 AM.

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