sToo many films have been hung on seemingly foolproof plans that veer disastrously in execution; Less common is the movie that is based on a scheme so ill-advised, full of the potential for disaster, and so guaranteed to end in failure that one wonders why a character would even try it in the first place.
The new movie I Love My Dad falls into the latter category, which was exactly what drew star Patton Oswalt to. His face and voice combo has that special thing that makes a person a desirable character actor and comedian winner, memorable but unobtrusive. He’s been filmed for hours of stand-up specials, appeared in at least one episode of all your favorite sitcoms from Parks and Recreation to Curb Your Enthusiasm (although he counts Arrested Development and Just Shoot Me! as his most wishful book), collecting Film roles from the beloved comedy to the lead voice of Ratatouille to an award-winning drama at Young Adult. “If they ask me, I do it!” Laugh. “I love doing things.” His opposite performance as country portends more than his outward appearance as a crippled sad sack in front of Charlize Theron is what drives him to extremes of discomfort.
Oswalt casts himself in a role that most actors don’t touch with rubber gloves: wretched Chuck, the noble father who rules them all, introduces a man who takes a dog and found it with his young son and then rips a “LOST DOG poster” with the dog’s picture as the boy asks if he might have an owner . He cheated and made his way through life, climbing to the top of the online chess league by copying moves from an automated program. His atrocities form the basis of the film and come from the real-life experience of writer and director James Morosini, who also appears on screen as his Franklin stand-up. Banned by Franklin on Facebook, Chuck hits up a fake profile using photos of a cute waitress at dinner and engages the fruit of his loins in courtship of a catfish that turns sexual with speed crawling through the skin.
Even if sexting isn’t visually represented in the most awkward intimacy scenes between two men this side of Wet Hot American Summer (and it is), performing the taboo harassment still requires just as much sympathy as the actor can muster. Oswalt soon realizes that only by meeting Chuck at his level, however despicable he may be, can he hope to get to the mindset that goes with an idea so bad that it is impervious to success.
“I think he is one of those people who, very fatally, want credit Wants To do the right thing,” Oswalt told the Guardian from a hotel room in Manhattan. “So it doesn’t really matter if his plan works or if it’s just outrageous, it’s all.” Don’t people see that I finally want to do it right by my son though That I’m not following through on anything?” He taught himself that if he makes a great apology later, it doesn’t matter what happens. Unfortunately, this shaped his life.”
This is an actor’s work, honed in essence. At the heart of some stomach-churning choices, Oswalt identified a motive he could capitalize on, seeing Chuck’s self-destructive bony movements as an exaggerated form of the same moral shortcomings we all experience. “I’m totally guilty of that, too, because I want to do a good job, and think that alone is what matters,” Oswalt readily admits. He realizes that he doesn’t separate much from his shortcomings from Chuck’s, especially with regard to parenthood, which forces us all to come to terms with our different levels of human limitations. His daughter Alice may have just come out of her middle years, but their relationship enabled him to imagine an unhappy version of him.
“This is the first time I’ve really played my dad trying, in his own rotten way, to fix things in a relationship that really went wrong,” Oswalt says. “This is a very new perspective, for me, I’ve had to learn to accept it. I’ve never dealt only with parenting before. Playing the father of a son in his twenties, at least I have an idea in my mind of what it was like when he was five “The eighth, the twelfth, and the ways I screwed it up. That made a lot of feelings for me, and remember what my daughter was like at those ages. What if I was careless and put her away? That’s so weird and cruel to me. How does this guy swear, even if he’s Subconsciously, some real self-loathing? How do you get out of bed in the morning with such a load? His only way is to take this desperate measure and justify it to himself as helping a child who knows nothing better.”
The clarity and lack of reluctance with which Oswalt dived into the nuts and bolts of acting made him endearing to Morosini, even though they were first associated with “huge movie buffs”. In this perverted portrait of paternal fidelity, they both see connections to Fronland’s hysterical mania and the agonizing frustration of Toni Erdmann, while Morosini traces its influences to the mother-daughter feud in Ingmar Bergman’s autumnal sonnet. “These corrupt relationships manifest in madness,” Oswalt explains. In conversations like this, he’s much more interactive and lively, a true love for the game that explains an astonishingly prolific career entering its fourth decade soon. Soon, he will appear in an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy epic Sandman, a graphic novel that entered Oswalt’s life in his sophomore year of college. “Books have shaped me a lot,” he says. “They sent me in a good direction.”
Sandman’s job falls squarely within Oswalt’s purview, which leans toward the nerd side. In an unforgettable guest stint at Parks and Recreation, he improvised a minute-long monologue detailing the wackadoodle’s plans for the Star Wars series. He has been featured by Agents of Shield, contributed some voice work to the Eternals, and co-created the MODOK streaming series. As the authority on comics-based media (“No The power, perhaps a Authority,” he’s quick to correct, adding that ‘there’s a Council of the Illuminati of us’), he’s more qualified than most to comment on the MCU’s superlative status. Marvel’s overall dominance of the industry cannot last forever, and he sees expansion as key to staying creatively vital. He imagines the modern-day equivalent of the Hollywood studio system around the 1950s, under which good management neglect led to some of the best works of American cinema.
“Some people, like Buster Keaton, have freedom of movement, and have been crushed by the studio system,” Oswalt explains. But others like Vincent Minnelli and Michael Kurtz have thrived, and have done amazing things with this system. To dig deeper, here’s my question: When will Marvel inadvertently hire Douglas Circus, the guy who comes and runs in all kinds of hidden riches that they don’t even see in the studio? That would be awesome. … We don’t know yet, what a Marvel 20, 30, 40 million movie looks like.”
From there, he’s out, excited by the exciting possibilities of a lesser oversight, his logical streak bouncing from the little-remembered Aquaman of the ’80s to the ominously surreal sitcom to death. He’s seen everything I’ve seen and would like to discuss, just five minutes of our conversation covering the early works of Ramin Bahrani, the ‘hugely underrated’ Ran & Gan throw, and the popular phenomenon that has emerged around Tollywood’s masterpiece RRR. A complete stranger begins to see what it means to describe an actor as “good in the room.”
In his easy-going and friendly demeanor, Ozalt makes an unexpectedly fitting choice for a man who is confident in his ability to smile and shrug his way out of any predicament. He’s using his innate susceptibility to hateful purposes in the case of I Love My Dad, but off screen, that’s the secret to his longevity in an industry notorious for chewing and spitting actors. He earned his stripes, built his share of fame, lost love, found it again – it seems he’s done it all, and he’s glad to be here.
More than anything, he genuinely loves his job, that rare privilege of all. An impromptu question about the one-line portion of Magnolias leads to an excited recollection of traveling to Reno, learning how to gamble under Paul Thomas Anderson, and then hanging from a tree in a full-body diving suit on a brutal Californian. July morning. Oswalt still remembers the wisdom the director shared with him that day: “I’ve only read one page of the script I’m using, so I’m confused. I’m a toymaker, and now I’m in a wet suit? He didn’t say why, he just said, ‘You The first frog to fall from the sky.” Finally, I understood what he meant. And now we turn to the subtlest points of warning, when it works, when it doesn’t work, who got it right, etc. to infinity. One feels that he has a million stories like this, and that he would be happy to spend an eternity sharing them.