However, Becca is Chuck on the other side of the screen, and “Becca “‘s” photos have been taken from a compassionate diner waitress named Becca (Claudia Sulewski), who previously advised a tearful Chuck that “talking to people’s a good start.”
As he has with previous complex loners (such as in “Young Adult” and “Big Fan”), Patton Oswalt gives a heartfelt portrayal as Morosini’s father, and it ranks among the comedian’s greatest in a motion picture. The tragedy of Chuck catfishing his son is made all the more tragic by the fact that the film never excuses Chuck’s terrible sense of boundaries or his long history of being a bad father. However, Oswalt’s performance makes us wonder if perhaps this is the moment when Chuck is ready to be a more present father. Oswalt can sell the movie’s jabs at Chuck’s awkward grasp of contemporary technology and chat jargon while not overplaying the gore or gloom. He also portrays Chuck’s determination to get back into his son’s life. Despite being a liar, avoidant, intrusive, and incredibly manipulative, Oswalt’s sensitive acting makes the character likable. He could even be cute.
While not overdoing the gore or gloom, Oswalt can convey the movie’s barbs at Chuck’s uncomfortable use of modern technologies and chat lingo. He also conveys Chuck’s will to reintegrate himself into his son’s life. Oswalt’s delicate acting makes the character likable even though she is a liar, avoidant, invasive, and very manipulative. He could even be adorable. We are reminded of the reality behind these moments of solace fantasies for both the son and the father through important intercuts that function as punchlines without becoming repetitive. When Franklin wants to text-kiss “Becca,” for example, we see what a wincing Chuck is feeling as his son Franklin enters the room, starry-eyed and eager to lock lips. This method makes the awkward humor even more visceral.
All of this serves to suggest that Claudia Sulewski, not Patton Oswalt or even Morosini as an actor, writer, and director, is the comedy’s standout performer. Her identity occasionally functions as an avatar for Oswalt with outstanding comic timing, but in other circumstances, she serves as Franklin’s full-fledged fantasy (at one point walking on the water of the swimming pool). By the third act, the actual Becca—a kind waitress at a Maine restaurant who has been sucked into a terrible familial tangle and has also had her identity stolen—has a special poignancy and agency because of Sulewski’s conscious play into both “Becca” exaggerations. Her performance helps to create the essential whiplashes of dream and reality that are the film’s defining elements.
With this idea, there turns out to be a lot of character-based humor to go around, so much so that “I Love My Dad” can even come close to underusing certain members of its fantastic ensemble. As Diane, Franklin’s mother, finally learns about her ex-horror husband’s show, Amy Landecker is amusing but only appears for a brief time; Rachel Dratch is witty as Chuck’s current girlfriend, another person he attempts to influence. One of Hollywood’s hardest working supporting performers, Lil Rel Howery, at least transcends the role of the reactive friend. He has plenty of sequences with his coworker Chuck that will make you shake your head, including one of the funniest lines in the movie: “This is incest!”
In his second film as a filmmaker, Morosini has a keen understanding of how to use tone and tempo to their advantage while portraying a narrative that would otherwise be packed with an incredible amount of suffering. The plot immediately plunges us into a string of increasingly embarrassing exchanges, which later humorously mimic the unbelievable love tale Franklin believes is playing out on his chat screen (rather than through video chat, since “Beccacamera “‘s is inexplicably always malfunctioning). Franklin’s mental state and Chuck’s egregious deceptions are only two of the darker aspects that are confidently handled and welcomed for their sadness and candor. The more absurd the idea is, the squirmier and funnier it all gets. I saw “I Love My Dad” at a theater, and I can’t say enough good things about the experience. Its undulating pain from such precisely produced passages is better enjoyed in the dark with a group of horrified individuals.
A comedy that is completely in control of its winning idea is just so thrilling. And by giving almost everything and everyone such careful consideration, Morosini offers the viewer other levels to explore, such as the psychology of how foolish Chuck is or understanding the depths of our need to be fully seen by someone else, even if it’s just through a text bubble. “I Love My Dad” is the type of narrative that doesn’t overthink what makes it so belly-laugh-inducingly funny, yet every time its comedy makes you hide your eyes, there are a lot of nasty, really human things going on.
Currently playing in theaters.
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