In his comedy, his writing and his social media presence, Patton Oswalt proves that nerdness doesn’t have to be a social obligation. But in his most memorable screen roles — his deranged, obsessive sports follower in “Big Fan” (2009), his reclusive, physically challenged model maker in “Young Adult” (2011) — he digs deep into the dark heart of dorkiness, if you will. His work in ‘I Love My Dad’, which won this year’s Audience Award and the Award for Narrative Feature Films at the South by Southwest Film Festival, is also dedicated and, where possible, acute. Too bad the performance isn’t in a better movie.
While Oswalt’s character, Chuck, is a competent gamer and likes to sing Cure songs in karaoke bars, his main trait isn’t so much nerdness as neediness. A pathological liar and an often absent father who has abandoned his son Franklin for decades, yet he insists on connection.
Franklin, now in his twenties and played by the film’s writer-director, James Morosoni, is not thriving. A stay in a vaguely sketched salvage facility prompts him to sever damaging relationships. So he blocks his father on social media.
This sends Chuck into a panic. In a restaurant he meets Becca (Claudia Sulewski), a young waitress. Chuck invents a new social media account for her, using which he assaults his lonely son, who immediately likes her.
All the awkward scenarios you can imagine then follow. In real life, getting ripped off in this way is believed to be exciting. At least during the period when you fall for the scam. And then of course it’s terrible afterwards. Since the audience is in the schedule from the start, what we get is unbearable, unadulterated. Not too unbearable, though, because Franklin is such a boring figure it’s hard to generate much empathy for him.
The apparently comic highlights are shots of Oswalt and Morosoni sloppy open-mouth kissing. This, you see, contrasts the fantasy Franklin is experiencing with the reality of what would happen if… well, you get the idea. The rest of the movie is waiting for the other narrative shoe to drop. Then a thoroughly improbable coda reminds us once again that showbiz is all about hope.
This is the second indulgent and obnoxious daddy-issue movie of the summer – the first was “My Dead Dad.” They pray that there will be no third.
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