Filmmaker James Morosini’s new film “I Love My Dad” has an amazing premise: a father creates a fake online profile and finds himself catfishing his son to try and get back into his life. And it’s made only more amazing by the fact that this really happened to Morosini courtesy of his real-life father.
Morosini admits as much upfront at the top of his movie, but in speaking with TheWrap, the actor and director let on that while the specific details might not all be the same, there’s a lot about “I Love My Dad” that is scarily true to his own life.
“It definitely went further than I wish it had,” Morosini said. “Emotionally, the whole movie is very true. This feeling of wanting to get closer to somebody and not being able to. It’s a movie, so you’re trying to make it as entertaining and as dynamic as possible.”
Morosini let Patton Oswalt, who plays his dad in the movie, in on the secret of his embarrassing past, but only to a degree.
“He told me right off the bat this happened to him, that his dad did it to him. And so then I was obviously looking for what is realistic here,” Oswalt told TheWrap. “What’s the basis in reality? What did you embellish to make it maybe at the same time more cringey but also more palatable? Because I’m sure that the the actual story is probably insanely depressing. And weirdly not that entertaining in a weird way… you can feel the struggle on the page when you read the script.”
In the film, Morosini plays Franklin, a 20-something who has struggled with suicidal thoughts but took the important step of cutting his dad Chuck off from connecting with him on social media and blocking his number. So in a desperate attempt, Chuck creates a fake profile based on a real young woman in his neighborhood and reaches out. Their online relationship escalates to the point that Chuck finds himself scrambling to find a person who can speak with his son over the phone and even agreeing to drive his son cross country to eventually meet his fake girlfriend in real life.
Morosini, 32, explained that the incident with his father occurred when he was in his early 20s, but it wasn’t until his therapist nudged him to make a movie about his experience that he saw the humor in it, not to mention reflect on his own behavior and attitude toward his dad.
“I was very upset, but years later, I looked back on it and I thought it was bizarre but hilarious and weirdly heartfelt. And I thought it kind of aligned with my sensibility in terms of the kind of stories I like,” Morosini said. “I don’t think I was the easiest person to have as a son. And I think my thinking was very black and white, so my decision to cut him out of my life was probably more dramatic than it really needed to be. And that is echoed in the film. The character I play, Franklin, he’s very absolute, but by the end of the movie, he realizes that he’s not the most honest person either, and that gives him a window into forgiveness.”
The good news is that Morosini’s dad has come around to the film as well. The two fielded questions on stage at the SXSW Film Festival, where the film won the fest’s top prize. But Morosini hopes that those who watch “I Love My Dad” can better appreciate how we define love and our relationships.
“It’s a deeper form of love that he’s ultimately having with with his dad, and I wanted to unpack that and poke and prod at my own sense of what it means to love somebody,” Morosini said.
“I Love My Dad” is now playing in theaters. Read more from TheWrap’s interviews with James Morosini and Patton Oswalt here.