CLEVELAND, Ohio — The cringe zeitgeist not only continues, but is taken to a new high — or low, depending on your perspective — in the feature film ‘I Love My Dad,’ which opens Friday at Cedar. Lee Theatre.
What’s surreal — and sad — is the fact that writer, director and actor James Morosini (“American Horror Story,” “Feud,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Sex Lives Of College Girls”) based the film on a true-life experience.
The comedy-drama features estranged father Chuck (Patton Oswalt) who, after being blocked on social media and worried about his son’s life, desperately wants to reconnect with his troubled boy Franklin (Morosini).
While such a parental drive is natural, dad’s solution is to harass his son who naturally falls in love with an imaginary girl (Claudia Sulewski). Therein lies the cringe, which Morosini proudly calls the comedy of discomfort.
We recently caught up with Morosini to talk about his love of Cringe, The Cure and Patton Oswalt.
Hey, James, congratulations on the movie. Full disclosure, my teenage son had to physically roll over on the couch to avoid watching a few creaky scenes in “I Love My Dad.” Is this mission accomplished for you?
My intention as a filmmaker is to provide as visceral an experience as possible while keeping the audience on board. If there was the whole film left, mission accomplished. If he ran out of the room and went down, I might have crashed the ship, but I hope he stayed.
He stayed and saw a great performance from Patton Oswalt, who seemingly embraced the grimace with familiar enthusiasm.
Patton was on my mind from day one. He has an incredible ability to mix humor and darkness. I knew it would take sensitivity to play this role. He’s also so naturally friendly that we’re on board with him from the first moment we see him.
By the way, great use of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” in the movie.
My dad is obsessed with The Cure. He spent almost every Halloween of my childhood dressing up as Robert Smith. He’s not a good makeup artist. His makeup still looked terrible but he was so into it he didn’t care. He looked like a monster every Halloween.
Speaking of a monster, perhaps the craziest part of the movie is the fact that it’s based on a true story.
Part of the excitement of telling this story was that I personally had so much skin in the game. That’s why I wanted to play Franklin so that I could really support every part of this story, be fully invested and have nowhere to hide.
What makes what you call “discomfort comedy” so appealing?
It’s something you can’t look away from, but when it’s comedic, it’s like you can revel in the discomfort. Much of our lives, we find ourselves in uncomfortable social situations where no one is there to testify to our experience or point of view. Everything just happens in the unsaid. I’m drawn to telling stories that deal with these things and bringing them to the screen because it makes us feel less alone and like we’re not the only ones feeling embarrassed or upset. ‘discomfort.
Despite the awkwardness, he never feels forced. Also, despite being a comedy, “I Love My Dad” has some seriousness about what is essentially an emotionally deadpan father to his son.
I wanted to make a film that was both sincere and sarcastic. Also, I am a big believer that there are no bad people in the world. That everything we do, we justify it to ourselves and that we are all good and bad. When we can see this in each other, it creates a window. It potentially makes us more inclined to be more forgiving and to accept ourselves as we are and not as we hope the other would be. I want the audience to have a good time, laugh a lot, cringe and cry, but also maybe the audience will be inclined to connect with people they haven’t seen in a while.