On Aug. 5, I Love My Dad slid into theaters following its world premiere at SXSW earlier this year. Written and directed by James Morosini, the movie tells the story of Chuck (Patton Oswalt), an estranged father who is desperate to connect with his troubled son, Franklin (Morosini). His desperation is pushed to the brink when Franklin blocks him on social media, and so he conceives a plan to impersonate a young woman online so that he can chat with his son.
As one would expect from a comedy with Oswalt, Rachel Dratch and Lil Rel Howery, I Love My Dad is full of laughs, in addition to plenty of sentiment and cringe. Ahead of the film’s theatrical release, stars Morosini, Dratch and newcomer Claudia Sulewski spoke with LA Confidential about the inherent humor of a father catfishing his son.
James, because I Love My Dad is based on something that actually happened to you, when you were first starting to write the script, did you want to tell this story because you thought it would be entertaining or was it something you needed to get out of your head and on paper?
James Morosini: I was approaching it from both perspectives, really. I was excited to tell the story because I knew that it was gonna be funny and have heart, but also part of the excitement in my writing was that I would be able to better understand my own relationship with my dad. And so I wanted it to be as personal as I could possibly make it through the telling, but I also was wanting to make it as entertaining and as enjoyable to an audience as possible.
The karaoke scene is a pivotal moment in Chuck and Franklin’s relationship and captures a positive turning point. Did you write Boys Don’t Cry into the script?
JM: My dad and I, we used to go on road trips as a kid to Montauk and he would often play a lot of The Cure. My dad was obsessed with The Cure. He would dress up as Robert Smith every Halloween. The Cure has a really special place in our relationship, so it was important that it was that song in particular.
I think the lyrics of the song have to do with masculinity and how traditionally men don't express their emotions and they keep everything inside, and there is something that is resonant with that theme throughout the movie. If people just said how they're feeling and talked with one another, a lot of the conflict in the movie and in our lives really would potentially be avoided.
Of course there is so much more to the movie, but let’s talk about the sexting scene. While you were writing, why did you decide to take it that far— that Chuck would commit to being Becca that he went along with Franklin sexting?
JM: I wanted to take Chuck's scheme as far as it could possibly go and to see how he would navigate it when Franklin wants that level of intimacy. Because of Erica talking to him earlier, and being hyper flirtatious, that's what he thinks Becca wants, and so he's really doing it for Becca's benefit at that moment because he thinks that's the kind of person she is. And then Chuck has to find a way to navigate this, when he really doesn't want to. So I thought the conflict would be really fun to explore for those moments.
Rachel and Claudia, the movie ultimately centers on Chuck and Franklin, but without the women in his life or that he crosses paths with, Chuck would never have been able to catfish Franklin in the first place. All that is to say, what first piqued your interest about the script?
Rachel Dratch: I saw that it said it was inspired by a true story, and so when I started reading it, I was just riveted by this story and how one lie just begets a whole world of a mess. And then for my role, Erica, I liked it because it's not the type of thing I usually play, but it was also really funny. It has to have some sort of comic element for me to be interested in it. But she's a little more of a harda**-type of person than I usually play, so that's why I was like, “Oh, let me try this.”
Claudia Sulewski: Reading the script was the fastest read of my life because it's such a page turner and you're just cringing the whole way and terrified of where it's gonna go. For starters, the comedy of it is such a great blend of bigger one liners, but also the subtleties in the situations and how committed each character is is what makes it so funny. And personally, just playing the role of Becca, it was so fun to play two different versions: one being imaginary and one being real. And playing between that distinction and giving them contrast— that was just a dream to get to play with.
Claudia, how does it feel to be making your film debut with this movie?
CS: I'm so excited. The thing that's the best about this is that the movie is amazing and no matter if I was in it or if I wasn't, I would be recommending it to everyone in my life, and so getting to be a part of something that you are just so excited and proud of is— I don't know how often that happens. So I feel really, really lucky and I'm soaking this all in. I’m just so excited to see the world and life that it takes on
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Toward the end of the movie, Erica sees Chuck’s computer, that he’s still catfishing his son and calls Chuck’s ex-wife Diane. Does Erica foil his plans out of disgust or is there a part of her that is mad at Chuck for leaving her hanging?
RD: I just thought she was so angry at him. And she's like, “Oh, I'm gonna get you.” She's kind of, like I said, a ballbuster, so I think it was like, “You're going down.”
What do you want audiences to take away from watching I Love My Dad.
JM: I've loved watching his movie in a theater. People are so vocal, especially in the cringey moments. It's a really fun movie to see in that setting, so I really recommend people go see it in theaters.
The movie is about seeing people as both good and bad. And some of the most meaningful interactions I've had around this movie have been people coming up to me after and saying, “I haven't talked to my dad in five years. I'm gonna call them this afternoon.” So the idea of just forgiving one another and trying to see one another as just flawed humans, that I think is any filmmaker's/ intention and is certainly mine.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. I Love My Dad will be available digitally on Aug. 12.
Photography by: Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures