The logline for the film "I Love My Dad" includes the phrase "Inspired by a true story. Like, this literally happened to me." And that is the truth, more or less.
Written by, directed by and starring James Morosini, it's based on something that actually happened between the filmmaker and his father. During a period of estrangement, Morosini's dad set up a fake social media account posing as an attractive young woman and struck up an online friendship with Morosini.
In the film, Franklin (Morosini) is a twentysomething at a low period in his life, directionless and depressed. His father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt), who has an excuse for every letdown and mistake, never accepts responsibility for his own failed parenting. After Franklin blocks him on social media, Chuck starts an account in the persona of a pretty young waitress named Becca (Claudia Sulewski) and strikes up a relationship with Franklin that escalates quickly. Eventually, Chuck takes Franklin on a road trip to meet online Becca in person, and the truth collides with a carefully constructed fantasy.
Ostensibly a comedy, the film plumbs the emotional depths of Franklin's depression and Chuck's inability to own up to all the ways he has let his son down. The film's unflinching portrait of its outlandish premise places it high on the meter of cringe-worthy moments.
"Those are my favorite kinds of stories," Morosini said in a recent interview, "the ones that seem like maybe you shouldn't be telling them.
"I really didn't want to make a broad comedy. I didn't want to let the audience off the hook that easy. So you can't quite tell, is this supposed to be funny or is this really sad? It keeps your mind having to interrogate what this is supposed to be. I think that's how things feel often in life where you're laughing and then you're crying."
Oswalt didn't fully believe it was a true story when he first read the script, until Morosini explained it himself.
"I just read it, and it said like 'based on a true story,' but I thought he was doing a fake-out like in 'Fargo,'" said Oswalt. "And then he was like, 'No, here's what happened.' And he told me. I was like, 'Well, I gotta do this.'"
The film is the second written by, directed by and starring Morosini following 2018's microbudget "Threesomething," a study of male friendship through the emotional complications around a threesome. As an actor, Morosini, 32, has had numerous other roles including "The Sex Lives of College Girls" and "American Horror Story." "I Love My Dad" won both the grand jury prize and the audience award when it premiered earlier this year at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and is now in theaters and on VOD.
In preparing for the role, Oswalt did not meet with or speak to Morosini's father before shooting.