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Don't look for truth in 'I Love My Dad.' Just enjoy it as a story worth telling

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How’s this for a story: a college-aged kid cuts his selfish, chronically dishonest father entirely out of his life, at which point his father, still wanting to know how his son is getting along, creates a fake internet profile of an attractive young woman and connects with his son that way, effectively “catfishing” his own kid?

This isn’t an episode of This American Life or The Moth, but rather it’s the plot of I Love My Dad, written and directed by James Morosini, who apparently actually lived these events in real life. Morosini also stars as Franklin, the fictional version of himself, with Patton Oswalt as his conniving father, Chuck. The title can be read two different ways, in that the movie depicts Franklin’s rather skewed journey to some kind of understanding with his father, and also in that he actually falls in love with the fake woman his father pretends to be.

This is as uncomfortable as it sounds, and gets even more so as the lies pile on top of each other and Chuck has to get ever more elaborate with his schemes, making us wonder why in the world he thinks each next move is a good idea. But Chuck doesn’t seem too much like a guy who thinks hard about his next move, although he’s very good at working out the move right in front of him. You’ve rarely seen a more manipulative person, but Patton Oswalt also inherently has a kind of pathos that makes the character… well, certainly not likeable, but also not a demon. Franklin, for his part, is at a vulnerable point in his life, and we can understand how a smart kid like him might get caught up in something like this.

Morosini is fairly clever about how he stages it all, and he finds a good solution to the problem presented by a story that would otherwise mostly consist of people looking at screens. We may be tempted to wonder exactly how much of I Love My Dad really happened, but that’s probably the wrong move, and besides, it seems likely that enough of it did that this is a story worth telling. Just maybe don’t accept that next random friend request you get.

I Love My Dad is available on VOD.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.