The new film focuses on a father who catfishes his son on social media in order to stay in touch. How does it fit in with the cinematic lineage of failed dads?

Not all dads are created equal. Some parents are supportive and moving, while others are like Patton Oswalt's character in I Love My Dad.

Writer-director James Morosini, who co-stars, plays Franklin, a clinically depressed, suicidal young man who has been continually let down by his father, Chuck (Patton Oswalt), and now wants nothing more to do with him. But Chuck doesn't feel the same, and after being blocked on Facebook, he decides to create a new profile, posing as an attractive, flirtatious woman in order to stay in oblique contact with the son he's clearly concerned about. In other words, he catfishes his own kid.

One of the most shocking things about the screenplay for I Love My Dad is that it's based on Morosini's own life.

"My dad catfished me," Morosini tells EW in a joint video interview with Oswalt that you can watch above. "I loved the idea of following someone who was doing something wrong for the right reasons. To me, it was about making clear that this is Chuck's last hope of making sure his son is okay, but then making it as difficult for him as possible to follow through on having created this profile of this girl."

Patton Oswalt and James Morosini in 'I Love My Dad.'
| Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Morosini says he's been a fan of Oswalt for years, and went to him with the script early on. Oswalt was quickly impressed by the material's fearless exploration of unlikable characters.

"His script blew me away," Oswalt says. "I could sense right away that this guy was taking some pretty profound risks in terms of storytelling, in terms of making a protagonist that you want to follow. That kind of filmmaking has always fascinated me. He's in such a great continuum with filmmakers like [Martin] Scorsese and even [Stanley] Kubrick that were, like: How unlikable can I make a character while making you so fascinated with them that you want to stick with them?"

I Love My Dad is part of a storied cinematic lineage: the bad dad flick. EW asked Morosini and Oswalt which horrible movie dads from the past inspired their film.

Morosini cites Toni Erdmann, the boisterous 2016 German film by director Marin Ade, in which a goofy father tries to connect with his business-minded daughter, and Daddy Longlegs, an earlier feature by Uncut Gems' Safdie brothers (coming soon to the Criterion Collection). He also acknowledged the formative impact of Mrs. Doubtfire, in which Robin Williams stars as another father character "doing the wrong thing for the right reasons."

Peter Simonischek in 'Toni Erdmann.'
| Credit: Everett Collection

"The father in Toni Erdmann really inspired me, because he's trying to make his child laugh, but he's also trying to not acknowledge the tension that exists between them," Morosini says.

He continues, "Daddy Longlegs is about a dad who's navigating his job, a divorce, and he's really trying to show up for his kids while attending to all these other things in his life. He's struggling to do it, and you love him, but also there's a moment in the film where he has to go to work so he gives his children sleeping pills — like a lot of sleeping pills — so they'll stay asleep for the whole day. But then when he gets back they won't wake up. It's heartwarming but devastating at the same time. Those are the two I probably thought about the most."

For his part, Oswalt says that two movie dads he thought of during his performance were Dennis Hopper in Out of the Blue ("that movie could've easily been structured more as a comedy, like a Road Runner movie where the father's every attempt fails, but they leaned into the bleakness of it so brilliantly, it's painful to watch") and Dudley Moore in Micki & Maude ("it's very wacky and screwball, but he truly loves both of these women, but he's also completely lying to them").

Dudley Moore in 'Micki & Maude.'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Despite mentioning Kubrick, Oswalt contends that Jack Nicholson in The Shining is not a compelling father character.

"The Shining is a great film, but if you read the novel, it's about a genuinely good dad who slowly goes insane and then, at the end of the story, he sacrifices himself in the hedge maze so his family can escape," Oswalt says, taking novelist Stephen King's side in the long-running book vs. movie debate for The Shining. "From the very first shot of the movie, Jack Nicholson looks like an axe murderer. You're like, 'That guy's gonna kill his family.' There's no arc for that character."

Watch the full interview above. I Love My Dad is currently playing in theaters, and available on VOD.

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