Patton Oswalt Talks Lies, Comics, and Catfishing in His Squeaky New Comedy ‘I Love My Dad’


In the baffling dysfunctional comedy ‘I Love My Dad’, compulsive liar Chuck (Patton Oswalt) is separated from his son Franklin (writer/director James Morosini, who based the film on his real life) for being a bad dad . Chuck breaks his promises. He has lame excuses. It disappoints, on several occasions. Franklin decides to remove him from his life. When Chuck is blocked by Franklin, it prompts him to try to reconnect with his son – who is fragile after attempting suicide – by creating a fake identity online. Posing as Becca (Claudia Sulewski), a young woman who claims to have romantic interests in Franklin, Chuck is able to learn more about his son and tell Franklin things he otherwise couldn’t express. .

It’s a crazy, insane plan, straight out of “Cyrano” and “Who You Think I Am” — and it’s bound to backfire. Except it might just bring estranged father and son closer together (as long as Franklin never learns the truth). And “I love my dad” is hilarious, sincere or hateful, depending on his tolerance for squeaky comedy.

“That’s when I lie the most: to myself. You have to be a good liar to put it off, so I’m very proud of myself.”

Oswalt has a field day as Chuck, a desperate man who hopes to mend a relationship he broke up but doubles down on his bad behavior in his clumsy and thoughtless attempts to fix things. It’s fun to watch Chuck text Franklin while pretending to be a lovesick woman, but he also has a wild sex exchange with co-worker/girlfriend Erica (Rachel Dratch) whom he manipulates into a stage to maintain the masquerade.

The actor/comedian spoke with Salon about parenting, lying and making “I Love My Dad.”

chuck is a compulsive liar. When do you lie or manipulate things?

I think the biggest lie I tell is to myself, especially when I go over a deadline, or when I justify something stupid I’m doing – or not doing what I’m supposed to. I’ll justify it with self-care and relaxation when I’m just blowing. That’s where I lie the most: to myself. You have to be a good liar to put this off, so I’m very proud of myself.

Chuck is comical or pathetic. I could feel him sweating throughout the movie. [Oswalt laughs.] You have to inform each scene with a choice of how to play it, how far to push things. Can you talk about this process?

“I really don’t like pranks. I’ve never understood the appeal…People have enough tension in their lives.”

It mainly depended on the scenario, the scene and the context at the time. I never really worried about how far I could go, I just let myself serve the scene and the overall story even if it meant putting myself in very awkward positions – even for an audience to watch. I was just very open to it.

Can you talk about working with James, who both directed and lived this story?

He was focused on directing and acting, so I focused on serving the script as best I could. He was tired of swirling the plates. I just tried to stay out of his way.

Why is Chuck so bad father? He almost always makes a bad move and then tries to overcompensate. What drives him? He is so untrustworthy!

I think he’s afflicted with this thing – with him it’s permanent, but I think we all experience it – that “Doesn’t he give me credit for want to to be good. Should I bother to go all the way? See how I wanted to do that? Doesn’t that give me credit?” He can’t believe people expect a follow-up. It’s been a part of his life to be sincere and charming with an apology, so he knows , subconsciously, that he can get by with things, or make up for it later.He’s gotten himself stuck in a weird comfort loop, even though it’s tearing him apart psychologically and emotionally.

Yes, the beauty of your performance is that as a viewer you calibrate each scene. I never thought ‘He’s going to do something good’, it was more like ‘He won’t go too far’. Chuck is not going to “be better”, but “be less”.

Nope! Not Chuck! [Laughs]

There’s a fun trio”phone sexscene between Chuck and Franklin and Erica. It was slightly awkward, but there’s another scene where you and James go out of their way to kiss each other passionately. It’s like I want it to go there, but I I was almost sorry that was the case. [Oswalt laughs]

You need to talk to James about it. It was part of the script, and it was all cut together. What made this scene work is you realize the levels of love and desire that James had for this Rebecca character. Now he is transferred to his father, so it had to be like that.

Patton Oswalt and James Morosini in “I Love My Dad” (Magnolia Pictures)

Chuck sometimes tries to bolster Franklin’s self-esteem. His friend Jimmy (Lil Rel Howery) insists that Franklin keep his expectations low. I know you have struggled with trauma in your life. Are you lowering your expectations? How do you keep a sunny disposition?

I don’t mean to sound cliché, but I count my blessings when I feel weak and angry with myself. I can do comedy. My daughter is awesome. My friends are amazing. I can watch them do well. I’m in an industry where I get paid to be creative. You have to make recordings like this where you remember before you spiral off.

Speaking of being creative, I understand you have a comic, “Minor Threats” coming out. Can you talk about this project?

Yes! This releases Wednesday, August 24. I wrote it with Jordan Blum. We’re two huge comic book fans, and we decided to create our own universe and do it from the perspective of low-level, blue-collar supervillains dealing with the fallout of a massive supervillain eliminating a massive hero, and now all the other heroes are cracking down so hard that the supervillains on the street are thinking, “Maybe we should call this guy out and get some credit.” They fight to continue their normal low level criminal life.

“Watching this movie with strangers in the dark is a very memorable, very fun and entertaining experience.”

Chuck tells Erica that he is a prankster and likes to prank. Can you talk about a prank you did that was epic or an epic fail?

I really don’t like pranks. I never understood the call. I don’t prank people. It’s not my thing. People have enough tension in their lives.

Since this is a father/son film, what can you say about your relationship with your father or your relationship with your daughter? How do you see yourself as a child or a parent?

I didn’t have any experience with my dad because my dad is pretty awesome and I have a really good relationship with him. And yes, although my daughter and I have been through trauma together, I love spending time with her and I still love being a parent. It’s not something I shot for the movie.

What observations do you have about parenthood?

Be delighted to be a parent; just show up every day. You don’t have to be awesome in terms of, “Oh, we did this craft and it turned out to be awesome.” They don’t care about the results of what they do. They just want to know that you want to spend time with them and that you are happy to be with them. Even if what you’re trying to do doesn’t work, it can still be fun.

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What do you like to do with your daughter?

I’m a big movie buff, so we go watch movies together. She loves trying to build Legos. And she is very athletic. I’m going to watch her play basketball, trampoline and gymnastics, and cheer her on. Then we’ll try to go play basketball, even though I suck, which she finds hilarious.

What do you think audiences should take away from this film? Do not fish your son?

I don’t want to tell the public what to make of it. I just hope they have an amazing theater experience. Watching this movie with strangers in the dark is a very memorable, very entertaining and very entertaining experience. That’s what I hope they get out of it.

“I Love My Dad” is in theaters now and available on demand Friday, August 12. Watch a trailer via YouTube.

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