I Love My Dad review — cringe-inducing catfish comedy plays things a little too safe

“The following actually happened,” a chyron tells us at the beginning of indie filmmaker James Morosini’s latest feature. “My dad asked me to tell you it didn’t.”

What follows is I Love My Dad: the story of an estranged father who creates a fake social media profile by posing as an attractive young woman in a bid to connect with his son. They are events that, remarkably, happened to Morosini in real life — the potential of this high-concept, cringe-inducing catfish tale was, it seems, simply too good an opportunity to pass up.

And so embracing the age-old advice of writing about what you know, Morosini writes, directs, and stars in this entertaining if somewhat conflicted comedy that ultimately sticks a little too far on the side of safe.

Morosini plays Franklin, a despondent twenty-something looking to put his life back together following a suicide attempt. The compulsive lies and extensive list of excuses used by his hopeless father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt), are certainly not helping matters. So in a bid to cut ties once and for all, Franklin blocks his dad on social media, prompting a desperate Chuck to assume the online persona of Becca (Claudia Silewski), a friendly waitress who works at the diner he frequents.

Notwithstanding the sinister implications of such an act — something the film oddly plays down — it is, of course, a terrible plan; one with increasingly outlandish and disastrously awkward consequences. As Franklin starts to open up to Chuck’s version of Becca, romantic feelings unsurprisingly simmer to the surface, leading to a series of squirm-inducing scenarios, the pick of the bunch being a particularly embarrassing ‘sexting’ episode in a motel bathroom.

It speaks to Morosini’s talents as a filmmaker that these exchanges feel markedly fresh, shot as though the two are actually in each other’s presence rather than simply conversing on a screen. It adds a welcome visual verve and energy to the film, showcasing Morosini’s flair for not only staging a scene but also his capacity to mine such moments for their maximum comedic potential.

There is also, perhaps, a layer catharsis to all this for Morosini, who is forced to confront the story from his father’s perspective. But a tension quickly arises here, stemming from the fact that Chuck’s deception is played primarily for laughs, framed as the frantic attempts of a father seeking redemption.

That the film is so quick to forgive its pitiful protagonist is both disconcerting and a little reckless, and something audiences are unlikely to fully get behind. The impact of Chuck’s actions on the story’s true victim, the real Becca, is never properly addressed, with the film opting for an ending that feels a little too neat to be entirely believable.

In the end, I Love My Dad largely steers clear of the pricklier, more morally-dubious facets of its story, choosing instead to go with a lighter, more hopeful, but far less intriguing conclusion.

George Nash is a freelance film journalist. Follow him on Twitter via @_GeorgeNash for more movie musings

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