James Morosini On The Emotional Truth of I Love My Dad
Relationships are difficult enough to navigate in real life, let alone in the virtual world, where things are not always what they appear to be, and people may not be who they say they are. James Morosini learned this the hard way when he was catfished by his own father. I Love My Dad, a feature film that Morosini wrote, starred in and directed, is based on his bizarre, true-life experience.
“Emotionally, the entire movie is true,” Morosini says. Ever since I Love My Dad won both the Grand Jury and audience awards in the Narrative Feature category at SXSW Film Festival 2022, people have been asking the 32-year-old triple threat questions about how much of the film really happened. Morosini likes to be as transparent as possible, stating that his intention was first and foremost to make a good film. “I wanted to tell a story about fathers and sons, using this incredibly personal thing that happened to me,” he says.
I Love My Dad stars Patton Oswalt (The King of Queens, Young Adult) as Chuck, the father of Franklin (Morosini), a troubled 20-something who suffers from depression and anxiety issues and who is just starting to move on with his life after taking some time to recover from a suicide attempt. The relationship between the two men is strained to say the least, as Chuck was a mediocre father when Franklin was little and an absentee one the rest of the time. While Chuck is determined to keep tabs on his son, Franklin decides that his father’s increased presence in his life is becoming toxic and takes the step of blocking Chuck on social media. When Franklin isn’t answering Chuck’s phone calls, desperate times call for desperate measures: Chuck creates a fake profile for “Becca,” a young woman who is Franklin’s age, in order to stay connected with his son.
“I’ve been a fan of Patton’s for a long time,” Morosini says. “He’s somebody that is obviously incredibly funny, but he also has tremendous heart. And I knew those qualities were going to be really important for Chuck because he’s somebody that really cares deeply about his son and is willing to go to any lengths to make sure his son is okay. And that’s where he devises this plan that spirals out of control.”
“I wanted to capture what it feels like when you’re texting someone or interacting with them online. It feels like the person is right there with you, but you’re often projecting so much of who you think that person is.”
Morosini knew that it was a tall order to ask audiences to invest in a character who would do something so extremely manipulative, and Oswalt, a 53-year-old comedian known for providing the voice of Remy in Ratatouille, was the natural choice to portray a character who is both cuddly and caustic. “The entire time I was making the movie, I was very aware that in order for an audience to follow me here, they really needed to be connected to Chuck and his investment in making sure his son was okay,” Morosini says. “I wanted to pose the moral to the audience: how far would you go to make sure that your child was okay?”
The other key piece to rounding out the cast of I Love My Dad was Claudia Sulewski as Becca, Chuck’s online alter ego. “She has an ease on camera that was undeniable,” Morosini says of Sulewski, a wildly popular YoutTuber making her big-screen debut. The real Becca is a waitress at the restaurant where Chuck regularly eats breakfast, and he uses the photos posted on her own social media page to create the fictitious girl he uses to try to befriend his son. ”I knew that in order to make this movie cinematic, I couldn’t just show phones for an hour and a half,” Moronsini explains. “I wanted to capture what it feels like when you’re texting someone or interacting with them online. It feels like the person is right there with you, but you’re often projecting so much of who you think that person is. And so, I wanted to materialize those projections and have them change throughout the film, depending upon who Franklin was imagining the person he was talking to was.“
“He’s somebody that is obviously incredibly funny, but he also has tremendous heart. And I knew those qualities were going to be really important for Chuck … “
In addition to living in a story that was ripe for comedy, Morosini has had lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression and wanted to use I Love My Dad as an opportunity to address mental health on film in a way that was both sensitive and responsible. “When somebody’s actually struggling with these things, it’s kind of happening in the background a lot of the time,” Morosini says. “It’s sometimes not even something that you think about a whole lot, until it becomes a problem.” It was important to Morosini to remain true to his own experiences, while also illustrating just how difficult Franklin’s delicate state makes it for Chuck to navigate the volatile relationship.
I Love My Dad is in theaters now and became available to rent or own on demand platforms on August 12. An equal mix of outrageously hilarious and deeply touching, the film represents a breakthrough for its creator, establishing him as an interesting and ambitious artist with a promising future.
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